Cohabitation agreements – Why are they important?

While there is a misconception that cohabiting couples are ‘common law’ spouses, there is no legal recognition of cohabitation in the UK which means that issues can arise if the relationship breaks down.

These issues can involve property, finances and personal possessions as well as there being difficulties in the event of someone passing away without being legally married or in a civil partnership with their partner and having no Will.

One way for cohabiting couples to safeguard their interests and avoid potential disputes is to enter into a cohabitation agreement.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract between two unmarried partners who live together.

The purpose of the agreement is to define each partner’s rights and obligations towards each other and their assets, and to plan for the future in case the relationship ends.

Unlike marriage, cohabitation does not confer any automatic legal rights to property or finances.

This means that if a cohabiting couple separates, there may be disputes over who owns what, how much each partner contributed, and what happens to shared possessions.

What can a cohabitation agreement cover?

Ownership of property

It can specify who owns the home or other property that the couple shares, and how any equity or mortgage payments are divided.

Financial contributions

It can detail how much each partner will contribute towards rent, bills and other expenses and what happens if one partner pays more than the other.

Personal possessions

The agreement can identify which possessions belong to each partner, and what happens to shared items in case of separation.

Children and parenting

It can outline each partner’s role and responsibility towards any children they have together, including custody arrangements and financial support.


It can also address what happens to each partner’s assets and possessions in case of death, and whether they wish to make provisions for each other in their Wills.

What are the benefits of a cohabitation agreement?

There are several benefits to having a cohabitation agreement in place, including:

  • Protecting individual assets and interests
  • Clarifying financial responsibilities
  • Minimising disputes

For help and advice with family and relationship matters, please get in touch with Alison Green, Head of our Family and Relationship Team at Mackrell.Solicitors on +44 (0) 20 7240 0521 or at

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Alison Green
Alison has more than 25 years’ experience assisting clients with Family and Relationship matters. Her expertise covers matrimonial work, including divorce and the associated financial and children issues; pre and post-nuptial agreements; co-habitation disputes; civil partnership agreements and the breakdown of civil partnerships.