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Cohabitation Agreements

Where parties are in a relationship but are not married, their rights to financial support for themselves, as well as interests in any property owned by one or other of them, can be very limited.

There is no such thing in Jersey as a “common law marriage” as some urban legends seek to suggest. There is, however, some limited protection in respect of financial support for the benefit of any children you have, but that is solely for the benefit of the child and not for the parties to the relationship. Without legal intervention, such as a cohabitation agreement, your position may be very vulnerable. If you are in a relationship and are wanting to understand what your rights are and the ways that you can protect them, you should seek advice as soon as possible.

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.

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. Unfortunately, the default position in Jersey means that the person in whose name the property is, holds the rights to the property. This can cause problems where others have contributed towards the property expecting to have an interest in it.

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.

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In Episode 4 of our 'Holding Court – The Jersey Law Podcast’ series, Viberts Family Partner Rose and Gary discuss Cohabitation - uncovering some common held myths and misunderstandings.

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