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Living together

Why it is important to get a cohabitation agreement?

Living together known as cohabitation isn't just something that couples do. You may choose, for example, to house-share with a group of friends or purchase property with a family member. It isn't just about residential property and living in it. There are a range of topics that cohabitation deals with and this is why it is important to ensure that you have an agreement in place should a relationship breakdown or a change of circumstance occur.

Cohabitation Agreement

What is a cohabitation agreement and why is it important? 

More and more couples are deciding to live together without getting married. It’s not just couples either, friends and family members are choosing to either rent or purchase property together as a way of keeping costs down when starting out on the property ladder. It can be very common for one person to move into a property owned by another as well. 

Because of Jersey’s residential status rules, it is also common for people to purchase property together but have only one person named on the title deeds of property at the time of purchase.

A cohabitation agreement, which is a contract between each party, can be an extremely useful way of dealing with issues that could arise either if the cohabitation breaks down or circumstances change. In practical terms, it simply means listing all assets that each person owns prior to the cohabitation and for each person to take their own independent legal advice. Cohabitation agreements are becoming increasingly popular and below are some of the things to consider when choosing whether to get one:

  • Remember there is no such thing as a common law marriage in Jersey;
  • Cohabiting couples do not have the same rights as a married couple or within a civil partnership if a same-sex couple;
  • Both parties must have independent legal advice;
  • Both parties must set out their respective financial position;
  • Agree how the costs of drawing up the agreement are to be divided;
  • Other things to be considered are covered below.

Personal finance – Joint bank account(s), pension(s), insurance & debts/loans;

Movable assets – House contents, motor vehicles, shares/investments & business interests;

Details of the agreements – Review of the agreement, termination of agreement, change of circumstance;

Property – Purchase of property, liabilities & future sale/purchase;

Children – Birth of a child, religious upbringing, arrangements for child(ren) on separation.

 

Breakdown of cohabitation & relationships

If the cohabitation breaks down, issues can arise as to who is entitled to what, especially when they have been cohabiting for some time and both contributing to the mortgage and other outgoings. Each person needs to take their own independent legal advice.

At Viberts, we find that cohabitation agreements are becoming increasingly popular. Every couple’s situation is different and may require more specific advice. If you would like to discuss setting up a cohabitation agreement, call us on +44 (0) 1534 632248 or email family@viberts.com

 

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Case studies

Gail’s cohabitation story

Gail has met and fallen in love with Michael. They are both in their 70s and have been married previously. They want to cohabit before getting married to make sure that it is the right thing to do. Before they live together, they want to ensure that their own separate assets are protected in case either of them dies during the cohabitation. Gail asks for advice on drawing up a cohabitation agreement and the legal status of this. 

Leanne’s breakdown of cohabitation story

Leanne and Nick have been cohabiting for 15 years. Leanne lives in a house that is owned by Nick, but she has paid 50% of the mortgage and other outgoings for the entire time they have lived together. They also have a son together, Simon. 

Recently their relationship has deteriorated to the point whereby Nick has asked Leanne to leave the house with Simon. Leanne comes for advice as to whether or not she has any rights in the equity of the house. 

 

BBC Radio Jersey interview with Viberts Family Law Advocate Rose Colley. To listen to more BBC interviews with Advocate Rose Colley on relationship breakups. Listen here >>
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