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Using Collaborative Law to create a Cohabitation Agreement

Using Collaborative Law to create a Cohabitation Agreement

Collaborative lawyer Kim Beatson has used her specialist training to help couples create Pre and Post-nuptial agreements, and those same skills can also be applied to the creation of a Living Together Agreement.

Collaborative pre-nups and collaborative Living Together Agreements

More and more ordinary couples – or at least, those couples where one party is not significantly richer or more famous than the other – are now drawing up pre-nup arrangements.  The content of such an agreement can vary, but often includes areas like division of property or safeguarding assets that were built up by an individual before the marriage, such as a property or a business.A pre-nup offers greater security if it is drawn up as part of a ‘collaborative process’. This involves both halves of the couple instructing their own lawyers and sitting down at a table with a blank sheet of paper to discuss what assets they’re bringing to the marriage and how the marriage might evolve. You can bring other professionals into the collaborative process, such as financial advisors or even therapists.

A judge will take a collaborative pre-nup very seriously when considering a divorce settlement, because if a couple has undergone the collaborative process it’s almost impossible for one party to later argue that they didn’t know what they were signing.

This is important, as in the past, many pre-nups have been thrown out because the judge ruled one party had been presented with a document under duress or at short notice.

In the same way, creating a Living Together or Cohabitation Agreement needs to be done in a way that allows both the couple to be truly aware of the consequences of any decisions they come to and to have understood all aspects of the agreement.  In other words, they need to be able to communicate clearly with each other, and if there are complex financial aspects to their agreement, this could be difficult to do without some extra help.

They can work with financial experts to guide them, but if there are legal implications – possibly overseas properties and investments, or one of the couple is still legally married to someone else – then spending time with lawyers may be a good investment, and one of the best ways to access non-adversarial legal advice is to work with lawyers who are collaboratively trained, where the couple sit in the same room together with both their lawyers and collaborate to create a fair and sustainable agreement.

What to include in the discussion process

If you use a collaborative process, drafting a Living Together Agreement forces you to consider issues such as whether you want children or how you would feel if your partner became sick, injured and unable to work. Here are some of the areas you may need to cover:

  • It is important to think about what will happen to assets that belong to both of the couple, and what happens to gifts or inheritances.
  • It is also useful to think about responsibility for debts and other liabilities.
  • A change in circumstances such as the birth of a child needs to be considered, who will be compromising their career to care for the child, and how will they have a pension – if you are not married you don’t have a right to share your partner’s pension in the future unlike married couples.
  • Typically the agreement will need to be reviewed after, say, every five to seven years at least, to keep it up to date.

 

Does a Living Together Agreement offer real protection?

A well crafted Cohabitation Agreement can pave the way for a straightforward and amicable financial separation if the relationship should end in the future.

Well-drafted Living Together Agreements are likely to be accepted by the courts as governing what should occur when a partnership ends, and are well-worth considering as a means of protecting your assets.

The process of creating a Living Together Agreement can be a powerful way for couples to bring a greater sense of security to their relationship, especially if one of the couple is looking after the children and unable to create their own individual financial security.

If couples are unsure or insecure about communicating their wishes to each other, then talking to counsellors and life coaches can make that process not only easier, but empowering.

 

Call Kim for a no-obligation chat: 020 7940 4000

Or email here at: kim.beatson@anthonygold.co.uk

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