What is a living together agreement?
Moving in with your partner may be one of the most exciting and romantic decisions you’ll make in your life. So, as you step over the threshold and start your new life together, you are not likely to be considering your legal rights, or anything as mundane as how you are going to pay the bills. You are certainly not going to be thinking about what would happen to your home, sofa, bills etc if you split up.
A living together agreement isn’t about “this is mine, that is yours and you’re not getting a penny out of me”; otherwise, only couples about to split up would ever make them. Instead, you can use a living together agreement to sort out the day-to-day workings of living together and protect both you and your partner from whatever might happen to your relationship in the future.
When should it be done?
Ideally you would make a living together agreement when you first move in together, but it’s never too late, so even if you’ve already been together for 15 years it’s still a good idea.
Why should it be done?
A living together agreement isn’t just about breaking up, it’s about how you will live together. Making the agreement prompts you to discuss how your living arrangements will work in practice and what your expectations of each other are.
Making the agreement also helps you to organise the day-to-day finances of living together. It encourages you to think about easy and fair ways to divide the costs and avoids those trivial little arguments about who’s paying for the food, and who’s paying the gas bill, that can sometimes mount up.
An agreement that does set out what would happen if you split up isn’t an admission that you might. In fact, it can strengthen your relationship by helping both of you to feel happier and more secure.
A living together agreement is also useful because, if you were to split up, it can help you to do it as amicably and fairly as possible.
Suggesting to your partner that you make an agreement isn’t a declaration of the fact that you are about to leave them. Even with the best intentions on all sides, if you do split up many, many years down the line it might be impossible to remember who contributed what when you started your life together. You may each remember what was said and done very differently and this may make things even more difficult if you do break up, making it harder for you to remain on good terms. If you have the agreement, you can at least be sure what it was you contributed and agreed to.
The other thing to bear in mind is how you would be feeling if your relationship did end for any reason – neither of you are likely to be looking forward to lengthy rounds of negotiation. Instead, you may feel like giving up and walking away leaving everything you owned, which certainly wouldn’t be fair either. If you have written your agreement already it can make it a lot less painful, quicker, and fairer for both of you should you split up. Making a living together agreement also greatly reduces the chances of your relationship ending in the worst possible way – in a long and bitter (not to mention expensive) court battle.
Can living together agreements be enforced in law?
Just like a pre-nuptial agreement, living together agreements have a slightly odd status in law. The courts will not let you sign away rights that the law gives you, but a court will generally follow what you both agreed if:
- It still produces a fair result for both of you.
- You both were honest with each other about your finances at the start.
A court is even more likely to uphold the agreement if both of you also had some legal advice about what you were doing.
And a formal legal ‘deed’ prepared by a solicitor is legally binding in the same way as any legal contract between two parties is.
Our Family and Relationships team are experienced in creating non marital agreements for couples and families. Ensuring you understand your options clearly and creating agreements which are agreed and fair for all parties involved. We provide legal services to clients across Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Essex. With offices in Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury we are happy to arrange a meeting wherever you are. Contact our team today to find out more information 01284 767766.
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