Cohabitation agreement (living together agreement)
- Length:14 pages (4000 words)
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What is a cohabitation agreement?
A cohabitation agreement (also known as the living together agreement) is entered into by two people living together who are neither married nor are in civil partnership. It provides them with a framework to work out and set down all the practical arrangements that need to be covered when a couple starts living together, both now and in future if they split up.
A cohabitation agreement can be used to set down:
- the couple’s financial obligations to one another for example, the contribution of each partner in household bills, mortgage or rent, internet, groceries etc.
- separate ownership of assets of each partner for example properties, bank accounts etc.
- Jointly owned property and its division in case the relationship breaks up or joint debts to be paid off.
It does not try to tell you what is best for you, but it steers and guide you into considering and dealing with the most important issues. It can cover arrangements about your home, business assets, who owns what, everything about money - and even provisional children arrangements.
What does our cohabitation agreement cover?
- State when you and your partner started living together
- How you deal with your house or flat
- Keeping your own business property
- Separate ownership of assets
- Joint bank accounts and cash arrangements
- Living expenses
- Finance and borrowing
- If you or your partner have any children from previous relationships and what will be the children arrangements - now and on termination
- What happens if / when you separate
- Division of capital assets
- What one of you might pay to the other for self and children
- If one of you dies
- Explanatory notes and guidance
Who can use this document?
- You are in a committed relationship but do not want to get married however you do want to have certain rights for example, to the home you bought together, in case you separate or have children.
- You intend to make sure that your partner does not have a claim to your property and that your own properties remain separate from the properties your and your partner’s shared assets.
- Your partner is in a lot of debt and the other partner wants to ensure that they are not liable to pay the partner’s debt.
- You want to live together but also want to stay in control of your own company or business assets.
- You have a flatmate who equally contributes to the furniture and other household appliances and you want to make sure everyone knows who owns what.
- You are a financially dependent partner and also have dependent children and you may need support in financial matters if you break up.
The law in this document:
Previously, unmarried couples living together did not have the same rights as married couple until the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 came into force. The law now gives them certain rights and protection and allows them to enter into a cohabitation agreement to regulate their financial interests and determine what happens if the relationship ends. The Act now imposes obligations on unmarried cohabiting couples unless they specifically choose to opt out. If you don’t have cohabitation agreement then you are subject to the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2018.
Do I need to register this cohabitation agreement?
No, you do not need to register this agreement. It is a legal document and once you have signed this agreement, it will be valid and legally binding. Each partner should keep one copy to be safe. However, it is good practice to have the signing witnessed and for it attested by the commissioner of oaths.
We will automatic right and parental responsibility to our child as cohabitant partners and unmarried parents?
Parents have legal obligation to financially support a dependent chid (under 18 years). You can use this cohabitation agreement to disclose an arrangement of your own children from previous relationships or you can also set down the arrangement of your children together if you separate in the future. This can include their financial responsibilities, how often they will spend time with each parent, each parent must inform the other if they are taking the children out of city etc.
Do cohabiting couples have similar rights as married couples under Irish law?
No, Ireland does not recognize common law marriage so cohabiting couples do not have the same rights as married couples. Unless the couple in cohabiting relationship marries or enters into civil partnership, they will not have the same financial and inheritance rights as married couples or civil partners.
What happens to the cohabitation agreement if I marry my live in partner?
If you marry or enter a civil partnership in the future, you can allow the document to end or change it to reflect what will happen if the marriage breaks down in future. However, if you keep it as it is, then status of the document changes. It becomes like a prenuptial agreement. The effect is that if you then separate, the court will take this document into account, but will not be bound by it.
Can my partner challenge our own cohabitation agreement in court?
By making your own arrangements in the cohabitation agreement, you are choosing for the law to not apply. However, in exceptional circumstances, your partner can go to court and claim that they were coerced in to signing this agreement or did not the implications of it at the time of signing. So the court will consider:
- If each of you had received independent legal advice or you seek legal advice together and waived the right to independent legal advice.
- If the agreement was signed by both of you
- The agreement was a contract
Only in exceptional cases, the court will set aside or change your cohabitation agreement for example, if the court thought that the enforcement of agreement will cause serious injustice to one of the parties.
What if my partner dies after signing this agreement?
If you are married couple or in a civil partnership, the law gives your spouse succession rights if you die. However, if does not apply to cohabiting partners. So it is sensible to make new will if you decide to start living together to reflect your new circumstances so you can include your partner in your will.
Is there a redress scheme available for cohabitants?
Yes, the law allows qualified cohabitants who are financially dependent on their previous partner to apply for court orders under the redress scheme. A qualified cohabitant is:
- a cohabitant who has been living together in an intimate and committed relationship with the partner for at least 5 years;
- a cohabitant who has been living together in an intimate relationship with a partner for 2 years if they have a child together.
The court can give:
- A maintenance order;
- Property adjustment order;
- Pension adjustment order.
However, the court needs to be satisfied that you were financially dependent on your partner. And for this, the court will consider your financial situation, the rights of others, the length of your relationship and the financial contributions the cohabitating couple made during their relationship.
Related documents in Irish family law
Separation agreement: Married couples or civil partners or couples living together who intend to separate can benefit from our separation agreement.
Prenuptial Agreements: We also have prenuptial agreements if you wish to marry your partner. One document covers a wider range of possible outcomes and helps you define your intentions over broader areas by providing a framework that allows financial disclosure of each party. The other one is simpler version of that has been written for couples who are likely to be financially independent before the marriage or partnership and for whom the concern is about ensuring that wealth and assets remain in possession of whichever one brought them in, should the marriage fail.
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