Living Together – What You Need to Think About

When couples begin to think about taking the next step in their relationship, they will often choose to start living together. This is an exciting time for many couples and their families, but one that also presents new challenges and new factors to them to consider. Whether moving into rented accommodation or purchasing property, couples should consider their options and plan as they move forward into their exciting new chapter together. Just as importantly, they might also need to prepare for if their relationship goes wrong.

Couples can enter into a Living Together Agreement or a Cohabitation Agreement. These agreements are intended to create legal relations between the couple in the form of a contract. Such a document can help record their agreed contributions in the relationship, as well as set out how they intend to deal with matters in the event of their separation.

It is important to consider all aspects and details of a relationship. Careful thought and time spent during the outset can mean that the parties are clear from the start what they’re committing to and give them a clear understanding of their ongoing obligations to one another. Below I have set out some headline considerations for couples, to include:

  1. Arrangements for the parties’ housing – this can be relevant if renting or purchasing a property.
  2. If renting – will this be in their joint or sole names? What will their obligations be to the other, and what happens if the relationship comes to an end?
  3. If purchasing a property – how will the property be purchased, and how will the parties contribute towards the property’s rent or mortgage?
  4. The parties will need to consider their ongoing contributions to other expenses such as utilities, Council tax, TV, and phone packages.
  5. Do the parties need to consider obtaining insurance?
  6. Are there children in the present or from previous relationships living with the parties? If there are children from a previous relationship, is child maintenance payable or being received in relation to children who may live elsewhere (for part or all of the time)?
  7. Bank accounts and credit cards – consider if the parties should have a joint account and, if so, how will each of them contribute towards such an account? Should they be joint or linked credit cards, and how will these be funded each month?
  8. Cars – if cars are to be purchased, consider how this will be paid for and in whose name(s) they will be registered. The running costs and any annual insurance should also be considered.
  9. Other assets – contents/chattels (for example, this could be furniture, pictures, and other items to be used in the property) which either might have owned prior to the relationship. Are these to be retained or shared on separation – do these have an agreed value. If purchasing new items together, consider how this will be paid for and who will pay.
  10. If items are to be funded by obtaining credit or other forms of funding, who will be responsible for the ongoing liability, and should the parties consider indemnities?

The above can all be included in such agreements as mentioned above, where the parties are free to contract with the other. In addition, Cohabitation Agreements can potentially cover more specific and personal details and refer to other important issues which relate to the future of that relationship. These could include: –

  1. Their relationship – if the couple are going to co-habit, is it their intention to get married? If considering marriage, should they be considering entering into a pre-nuptial agreement?
  2. Regardless of getting married, would the couple use their own or have a common agreed surname?
  3. Do the couple intend to have children – this could be a key area, and parties might need to consider all sorts of things around having children which could include IVF, adoption or surrogacy, as well as funding them and so on. What surname would any children use?
  4. Future employment – what happens if one party loses their job or stops working or reduces their working hours to cover maternity/paternity?
  5. Illness and retirement – do the couple need to make provision for specific potential events that might occur?
  6. The death of either party – this is never an easy subject, but consideration should be given to this, to include provision being made in each other’s Wills.
  7. Legal requirements – there are specific requirements that need to be considered in preparing documents for them to be valid.

The above is a brief overview of the immediate matters that a new couple might need to consider when they start to live together. Our firm can provide considered, specific and tailored advice and prepare such documents.

If the parties are intending on marrying, we also advise on Pre-Nuptial Agreements, much of the above will also be included, and we go into more details as part of a separate article.

If you would like further information on cohabitation/living together/pre-nuptial agreements, please contact us to speak to a member of our team.

Paul Wild
Legal Director, Family
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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