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Living together agreements

Couples can easily become reliant on each other and finances in the relationship become mingled. Those who choose not to marry would be wise to formalise an agreement to ensure that assets are safeguarded in the event of relationship breakdown.

When you’re living with a partner, it is easy for property and finances to become mingled. To avoid stressful and potentially expensive disputes, it is sensible to enter into a written agreement so you are both clear on your rights and entitlement. It should usually be signed by both parties as a deed, in front of a witness, after each receiving independent legal advice. Like pre-nuptial agreements, living together agreements will only be potentially enforceable if the couple give full and frank disclosure of their assets and liabilities, usually by listing them in a schedule to the agreement.

If you are not married, the Court has very limited powers to assist you in respect of your finances in the event your relationship breaks down. Our skilled team can draw on wide experience to ensure you and your partner reach a fair agreement. We can also help to provide you with clarity and a deeper understanding of the implications in the event that your partners is asking you to sign a cohabitation agreement.

If you would like to understand your rights in relation to your finances and property before or after moving in with a partner, our guide to cohabitation and our guide to living together agreements will help you. 

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What is a living together agreement?

A living together agreement is a contract between a couple and therefore it can cover anything that they agree. It is very flexible. It can be entered into at any time, whether a couple are just moving in together or if they have been cohabiting for years. Typically, it will:

  • summarise each party’s assets and liabilities at the time of the agreement:
  • state what the financial arrangements between the parties are going to be;
  • state what (if anything) is to happen at future key events, e.g. if the couple have a child;
  • state how the assets and income will be divided if they split up.

Matters you could cover in a living together agreement

The agreement can cover many arrangements, for example:

  • The couple’s home. The legal ownership of the home will often state that one party owns the entire property or that they both own it equally, but this may not be what the parties intend. The agreement can formalise any informal arrangements between the parties, such as what proportions the house is owned in. it can also say who is responsible for mortgage or bill payments.
  • Bank accounts. It can state which assets are joint and the situations that money can be used from the joint account.
  • Personal possessions. The agreement can show the assets, which are individually owned, and what should happen to which assets on separation.
  • Pensions. The couple can agree to nominate each other for death-in-service benefits.

Any of this can be varied at a later date by agreement (usually by another deed) and the agreement can state that it must be reviewed after a period of time.

Are there any restrictions on what they can cover?

The agreements can cover many arrangements, but there are some limitations. The agreement:

  • cannot restrict or remove a party’s right to claim child maintenance from the other;
  • cannot prevent the Court from deciding on any child arrangements, such as contact or residence;
  • cannot require third parties, such as trustees, to do anything;
  • might not deal with how foreign properties are held. Legal advice will have to be obtained from foreign lawyers as to the effect of the agreement on any foreign property and whether the agreement is enforceable in that jurisdiction.

How can we help?

In the first instance, we can advise you as to what it would be advisable for the living agreement to cover. We will then help you to collate and present your financial disclosure and draft a bespoke agreement. If necessary, we can help put your partner in touch with another family law specialist so that he or she can obtain advice.

We are also able to advise a financially weaker party on the effect of a living together agreement instigated by their partner on their rights; whether it is to their advantage, financially or otherwise, to entre into the agreement; and whether the provisions of the agreement are fair.

If appropriate we can negotiate on your behalf with the other party’s solicitor to improve the proposed terms.

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