Prefer not to marry but wish to formalise your relationship and protect your assets and children?

Following on from the Government’s announcement that civil partnerships are now open to all, what are the options that are open to couples who prefer not to marry ?

Couples who do not wish to enter into a marriage or civil partnership can still obtain some protection in the event that they split up and this can be provided through a cohabitation agreement.

A cohabitation agreement outlines which assets are owned by whom, whether jointly or solely, and provides the opportunity to document how the parties agree these assets should be distributed in the event of a relationship breakdown. It can also specify arrangements regarding the maintenance of children, joint finances, property and other significant assets.

This agreement does not however hold any influence over the intestacy rules which take effect when a person dies without making a will. If one of the partners involved in the cohabitation agreement passed away without leaving a will, the cohabiting partner would not be classed as next of kin and would be unlikely to inherit. Therefore, cohabiting couples should also make a will in line with their personal wishes.

It is important to note that a cohabitation agreement is only effective until a marriage or civil partnership is entered into. Therefore if a couple set out a cohabitation agreement when initially purchasing a property and then later got married, this would only remain effective until the date of marriage.

Nicholas Clough, Family Law Solicitor commented:
“For many couples, marriage and civil partnership are not options that they wish to explore. In these instances, particularly where children are involved, it is recommended that a cohabitation agreement and wills are explored to provide a level of legal standing”.

If you have any questions in relation to cohabitation agreements or family law, please contact a member of the Family and Divorce team on 0161 6155554, by email to or by visiting our Altrincham office.