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How to make a Cohabitation agreement

Make a cohabitation agreement when you and your partner live together but aren’t married, and want to set out how property is to be divided in case of a breakup.

Recently reviewed by Adnan Mahmood, Solicitor and Head of Legal, UK. 

This cohabitation agreement was last reviewed on 21 September 2021.

A cohabitation contract (also known as a 'living together agreement' and a ‘no-nup agreement’) is an agreement between partners who live together and want to ensure clarity: 

  • during the course of the relationship, and 

  • in the event that it should break down in regards to their rights in relation to property and children

If you are about to get married or enter into a civil partnership, you should create a Prenuptial agreement. If you are already married or in a civil partnership, you should create a Postnuptial agreement.

Use this cohabitation agreement template if you:

  • are either living with someone or are about to start living with someone
  • want to be clear about the ownership of assets and how bills will be paid
  • want a formal agreement that could be taken into consideration by the courts if you split up

If you have children or complex financial assets you will likely require a bespoke cohabiting agreement drafted.

Find out more about managing personal relationships and cohabitation.

This cohabitation agreement specifies that:

  • the couple's incomes remain separate
  • assets owned before the cohabitation remain the property of the person who acquired them
  • assets acquired jointly after the cohabitation are joint property
  • assets acquired by one person after the cohabitation remain the property of that person
  • jointly acquired debts are the joint liability of the couple
  • living expenses will either be paid equally or in agreed percentages 

Ask a lawyer if you would like for your cohabitation agreement to include specific provisions (eg in relation to pensions) not currently covered by the document.

You should consider making a cohabitation agreement when you decide to live with your partner to ensure that both of you are clear about the ownership of assets and how bills will be paid. A cohabitation agreement also helps clearly sets out how affairs will be managed and who owns what in case of a relationship breakdown.

In England and Wales, cohabitation agreements are currently not legally enforceable. However, they can serve as evidence of intentions if a case goes to court, provided certain safeguards are met. These include both individuals:

  • entering into the agreement freely and voluntarily

  • fully disclosing their financial wealth without hiding any assets

  • receiving legal advice about the agreement from the start

In Scotland, cohabitation contracts are generally binding if they are drafted by a solicitor. While a cohabitation agreement not drafted by a lawyer isn’t legally binding, it cant help clarify intentions from the start and avoid disputes if a relationship breaks down.

For more information, read Cohabitation.

Both parties must take independent legal advice before entering into this agreement. It is also required that both parties enter into this agreement freely and voluntarily and that you both make full relevant financial disclosures in order to avoid future allegations of undue influence. For more information, read Cohabitation.

Any assets owned before the cohabitation and the assets acquired by one person after the cohabitation remain the property of the person who acquired them. However, the jointly acquired assets after cohabitation commenced are the joint property of both partners.

Once you enter into this agreement, neither of the parties will be held liable for any of the liabilities incurred in the sole name of the other party (eg credit card debt). They will only be liable in equal shares for the debt acquired jointly.

You should update an existing cohabitation agreement or enter into a new cohabitation agreement if your situation changes (or is soon to change). For example, if you are expecting a child or are buying a home together. This is because any changes to your lives (especially if they are substantial) may result in the courts disregarding your cohabitation agreement in the event of a relationship breakdown.

This agreement can be terminated on the occurrence of the following events:

  • on the death of one of the partners

  • when the partners get married or enter into a civil partnership (with each other or with another person)

  • when the partners mutually agree to terminate this agreement by deed

  • when one partner hands a written notice of termination to the other

  • the partners have or adopt a child

  • when the court sets this agreement aside

On termination, the assets acquired after entering into this agreement will be sold and the net proceeds of sale divided equally between both partners. Any joint debt will have to be arranged with the lender to be repaid in equal shares as well. Other separate property and income will remain with the owner. Each partner will remain liable for their personal debts.

Ask a lawyer for:

  • legal advice before entering into this agreement

  • if you have complex financial assets

  • if you have children

  • if either of you is disabled

This cohabitation agreement is governed by the laws of England, Wales or Scotland.

Other names for Cohabitation agreement

Living together agreement, Cohabitation contract, Cohabitation contract, Cohabiting agreement, Cohab agreement.