Non-married couples who decide to cohabitate often feel it is the best of both worlds.  Until the split up.  Cohabitation is not equivalent to marriage, even common law arrangements, and after a break up, one party is frequently undercompensated. 

Cohabitation Agreement

The best way to safeguard your rights is to put in writing what you are both agreeing to.  This just confirms what you intend to do but makes it plain about personal property, savings, debts, and purchase, especially major purchases like vehicles and homes.  It can also indicate how ordinary expenses are handled like how much each will contribute toward rent or mortgage payments, responsibilities for certain bills (like each person’s own mobile phone or utilities), or even larger issues like life insurance, especially important if children are involved.

The best time to draft this document is in the beginning.  Both of you are in love with each other and want the best.  At the same time it makes you think about the realities of joint assets and debts.  If the cohabitation continues, the document can always be revised, but you need to start somewhere.

How to do it

The best way is for one party to visit with a lawyer and have the attorney put together a document that outlines how things will work.  Then the other party has their own lawyer review the document.  The second attorney offers a second pair of eyes and may offer suggestions for the benefit of both parties.

When all the details are settled, the document is signed by both parties and witnessed.  Then each party keeps a fully signed copy.  This becomes a legal and binding document.  It will protect each individual and there should be limited difficulty if the relationship breaks up, or even if one of the parties dies suddenly.  It can be a much smoother transition of financial issues with the family members.


There will be attorneys’ fees.  The lawyer that puts together the document will charge more than the second attorney who just reviews.  It is very likely to be a fixed hourly rate, with a minimum charge.  The amount of time it takes will depend on how simple or complex the assets are.  Whatever you spend, it will certainly be less than a drawn-out court battle and all the hassle of finding receipts and documentation of who contributed what.

You can probably find some pre-drawn templates and guides on the internet.  The safest option is to have a family practice attorney do the work.  At the same time, it would not be a bad idea to have Wills drawn.