General principles—cohabitation contracts
General principles—cohabitation contracts

The following Family guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • General principles—cohabitation contracts
  • General requirements
  • Practical matters
  • General principles
  • Oral agreements

Parties who live together may regulate the terms of their cohabitation by entering into a cohabitation contract. It is prudent to do so to ensure clarity both during the course of the relationship and in the event that it should break down. A cohabitation contract may make provision for both situations.

Cohabitation contracts were once void on the ground of public policy. That is no longer the case. In Dyson Holdings Ltd v Fox Bridge LJ said:

'There has been a complete revolution in society's attitude to unmarried partnerships of the kind under consideration. Such unions are far commoner than they used to be. The social stigma that once attached to them has almost, if not entirely, disappeared.'

This Practice Note details the matters to be taken into account when drafting a cohabitation contract and the general principles to be adhered to. It also provides guidance on oral agreements between cohabitants. For guidance on the terms of a cohabitation contract including financial provision, property rights, provision for children and variation, together with provisions that are likely to be unenforceable, see Practice Note: Terms and drafting—cohabitation contracts.

See also Precedents: Cohabitation contract and Cohabitation agreements—client guide.

In the event of a relationship between cohabitants breaking down, the parties may wish to enter into an agreement to regulate the terms of their separation, see Precedent: Cohabitants—deed of separation.