What is a “living together agreement”?
Simply, it is a written agreement whereby you and your partner can decide upon how any assets- solo or joint- will be split in the event of a relationship breakdown. This can be similar to a pre-nuptial agreement in its form. Whilst those in relationships may find it uncomfortable to discuss a potential breakup with their partner, the security can ensure that a party feels comfortable to end a relationship if necessary, knowing that they will be financially secure.
What does it consist of?
The agreement can include anything that you consider relevant to the relationship. However, the court will not enforce personal matters such as who is responsible for the cooking or cleaning, and if you wish to formalise this arrangement (despite being legally unenforceable), this should be contained in a completely separate agreement than one dealing with financial matters.
Typical contents of a living together agreement includes each party’s contribution to expenses whilst living together, as well as how property, savings and other assets will be divided in the event of a relationship breakdown. Depending on circumstances, some cohabitants wish to include details of child support and impose a legal requirement of maintenance following the relationship. The division of assets in the event of death can also be included, however the best way to guarantee that your property is allocated in accordance with your wishes is to create a will.
Can a “living together agreement” be changed?
Yes, though you may wish to seek legal advice. Whenever your circumstances change, you should seek to update your agreement to accurately reflect these changes. If you don’t adapt the agreement, it may not adequately protect you or your partner, or could fail to be legally enforceable at all. Should the parties of the agreement marry/enter a civil partnership, the agreement will end as legal protection is granted upon forming this union. Should you wish to keep the specifics of your agreement, you should consider making a prenuptial/premarital contract incorporating its terms.
Does it matter?
Living together agreements can be extremely useful. Couples that choose not to formalise their relationship have little protection from the law without one, and there is a risk that one party could end up with nothing. This applies regardless of the duration of cohabitation (see https://www.lexsnap.com/blog/2018-07-23-rights-of-cohabitants-the-common-law-marriage-myth for more details). By drawing up a separation agreement, this risk is eliminated, offering more security and stability in the case of relationship breakdown. A living together agreement may be even more crucial for relationships in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many couples face the challenge of not only living together, but also working together from home. This can cause tensions for couples who have to adapt to a blur between their work and home lives, and clarity regarding living arrangements can help to relieve any concerns in a time that is already stressful. This may be particularly important to parties who rely on the other financially, or have children together.