Cohabitation Agreements

Why do I need a Cohabitation Agreement when I have no immediate plans to marry?

Whilst as recently as the early 1990’s only about half of couples marrying had cohabited before their marriage, the statistics are now very different, with the majority of young men and women of marriage age spending at least some time in a cohabiting relationship.

However, it is important that before taking such a step that proper thought is given to such a relationship, rather than just slipping into this. For example:-

  • It is argued that living together is considered to be more stressful than being married.
  • Just over 50% of first cohabiting couples ever get married.
  • In the United States and in the UK, couples who live together before marriage are at a greater risk for divorce than non-cohabiting couples. (For some reason these figures are not borne out in France and Germany, where the figures are about the same).
  • Couples who lived together before marriage tend to divorce early in their marriage. (The statistics are roughly the same for married couples once the 7 year mark has been reached).
  • Cohabiting couples had a separation rate 5x that of married couples and a reconciliation rate that was one-third that of married couples.
  • Cohabiting couples are more likely to experience infidelity.
  • Cohabiting couples earn less money and are less wealthy than their married peers later in life.
  • Compared to married individuals, those cohabiting have higher levels of depression and substance abuse. 

So, couples must consider their motivation in cohabiting. Is it just out of convenience? Is it to spend more time together? Are you uncertain about the relationship and want to make a more informed decision? Or, is it just a prelude to marriage?

Keep in mind that successful couples who live together seem to have the best outcomes when they have already made a clear commitment to each other.

In order to give your relationship the maximum chance of success, it is a good idea therefore, to have thought through the implications of your cohabitation and made decisions regarding your level of commitment to each other before embarking on such. One way to do this is to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement.

Where couples subsequently get married, a Cohabitation Agreement could then be replaced by a Pre-Nuptial Agreement if so desired.

It is also really important to be aware that despite the commonality of cohabitation, there are still no automatic legal or contractual rights attached to living together. The oft spoken titles of common law husband or common law wife simply do not exist in law, where you would be treated simply as two separate individuals and dealt with under the strict and unforgiving civil property rules. It is not uncommon for separation or death to cause real financial hardship and/or unfairness, particularly where a mother has e.g. sacrificed her career to bring up their children.

Couples may, therefore, wish to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement and/or Declaration of Trust which can bring some certainty to their legal position, both during the relationship and afterwards, post death or separation.

In addition, couples would be sensible to consider making mutual wills to protect their respective positions.

Berry Smith Lawyers can provide you with expert legal help, advice and guidance regarding Cohabitation Agreements at our offices in Bridgend and Cardiff.

To discuss cohabitation or pre-living together agreements, contact our solicitors at or on Cardiff 029 2034 5511 or Bridgend on 01656 645525 for a no obligation discussion


Statistics in the UK

Comments about patterns of cohabitation


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