Did you commit to cohabiting this Valentine’s Day? Don’t forget about the practicalities!

Did you commit to cohabiting this Valentine’s Day? Don’t forget about the practicalities!

Many couples will have exchanged some heartfelt gestures this Valentine’s Day: romantic dinners, thoughtful gifts, and perhaps even life-changing proposals.

You may even be among those who took the leap this year to move in with your beloved—an exciting and important next step in any relationship. As you both raise a toast to your future, you might also want to consider discussing the legal aspects that will impact your life together.

For couples who are living together in Scotland, but not yet married or in a civil partnership, a cohabitation agreement could provide you with clarity and security going forward.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each partner when living together. It can cover a range of things, from financial arrangements to property ownership, and where appropriate, arrangements for children.

Why Consider a Cohabitation Agreement?

While it may not seem particularly romantic, a cohabitation agreement can actually be a positive step for couples. It allows you to discuss important issues and plan for the future and show a desire to protect both parties going forward.

The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 provides some rights for cohabiting couples, but these aren’t as extensive as those for married couples or civil partners. A cohabitation agreement can help to provide additional security and clarity, clearly setting out what should happen in the event of a separation.

What should be included?

As above, a cohabitation agreement can cover a range of things, however, most commonly will address the following:

  • Financial Arrangements: A cohabitation agreement will usually regulate how financial matters, such as shared expenses like mortgages and bills, property ownership, and bank accounts, will be handled during the cohabitation.
  • Property Rights: The ownership and division of certain property that is acquired during the cohabitation will likely be clarified in the agreement, including any heritable property, assets, or debts.
  • Termination of Cohabitation: What will happen in the event of a separation will generally be outlined, including provisions for the division of property, financial support, and any other relevant matters.
  • Dispute Resolution: How disputes will be resolved, whether through mediation, arbitration, or another method, will commonly be specified, in order to avoid going to court if conflicts arise.

Are cohabitation agreements binding?

Cohabitation agreements are binding in Scotland; however, it’s strongly advised that each party to the agreement seeks independent legal advice before entering into anything. Both parties should be fully advised of their rights and obligations in terms of the agreements to ensure that the agreement is legally enforceable.

Amid the excitement of these significant milestones, remember to consider the practical aspects of your relationship during this romantic season. Coming to an agreement about what you’ll do in the event of your cohabitation coming to an end can help ensure that you both feel secure and valued, no matter what the future holds. While a cohabitation agreement might not be traditional Valentine’s fare, it could be one of the most valuable gifts you give to your partner.

If you’d benefit from expert advice on cohabitation, or any other area of family law, Gemma Nimmo will be happy to help.

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