Moving in with your partner is one of those milestones that can make or break a relationship. There are so many positives to cohabitation (spending more time together, halving your bills, having someone to cook you dinner once in a while!) but there are also a few hurdles to clear first, such as the stresses of moving, learning to live with each other’s little habits, and arguing over DIY…
On a more serious note, it’s important to take your financial situation into consideration as a cohabiting couple – there’s no such thing as ‘common law marriage’, and your assets won’t necessarily be protected by the law if you choose to split in the future. A cohabitation agreement is the best way to protect your finances, and may even help you fine tune your plans for moving in together.
Whether you’re buying a new place or simply moving your stuff into your partner’s house, here are a few ground rules to help you get started:
- Don’t double up; declutter. Before you start packing boxes, take an inventory of your combined ‘stuff’ and work out how you’re going to concentrate two home’s worth into one. From armchairs to can openers – there’s no need to have two of everything. Sell or donate what you don’t need, throw away all the junk you keep meaning to fix but never get around to sorting out, store anything you can’t bear to get rid of, and compromise on the rest. This is easier to do if you’re moving into a brand new place, as you have a blank canvas to work with, rather than imposing one partner’s stuff on the other’s home.
- Divide up housework and responsibilities fairly. The couple that cleans together, stays together. Or something… The point is: chores, bills and home improvements should be a shared responsibility. You don’t necessarily have to divide things right down the middle (you might be a habitual tidier, while your partner is an expert gardener), but it should always be fair. Setting out your expectations before you move in can help to avoid bickering and resentment later.
- Tolerate, negotiate and compromise. Living with another person, whether or not they’re the love of your life, involves a lot of all three. If you’ve been living alone or with other people, cohabitation with your partner might take some adjustment: there will be idiosyncrasies to acclimatise to; there will be heated negotiations over the remote control; and reasonable compromise can do an awful lot to keep your relationship healthy.
- Don’t forget about romance. It’s very easy to fall into the ’old married couple’ routine once you’re living together. In many ways, it’s great: no more having to take turns going to each other’s place and you might even save money by staying in more. But it’s important to keep that romantic spark alight in little ways. Even if it’s as simple as a surprise dinner, or even just doing the washing up when it’s your partner’s turn.
- Draw up a cohabitation agreement. This is a legally binding document which determines what each party is bringing to the relationship in terms of assets and contributions, as well as how you plan on protecting these interests if the relationship ends, or if one partner dies. It’s also a good idea for cohabiting couples to keep up-to-date wills detailing their wishes the other’s inheritance, as ‘common law’ marriages will not be recognised by intestacy laws. A Declaration of Trust is another useful document which sets out the share of any property you own together, and will help to establish what you can claim in the event of separation. It’s worth noting that a cohabitation agreement is just as valid for friends as well as couples who live together, and can be extremely useful if you discover that you can’t stand living under the same roof in the future! Whether you hate your housemate’s loud music or are unable to sort out a fair rota for chores, a ‘living together agreement’ may simplify the process of selling up or moving out.
Moving in together is an exciting time, so get all the negotiation out of the way before you settle in. If you’re buying or selling property, or want to protect your relationship with a cohabitation agreement, get in touch with the family law and property experts at Frances Lindsay & Co who will help make your move seamless and stress free.
Frances Lindsay & Co provide good sound advice on all aspects of family law, including property and conveyancing, cohabitation and prenuptial agreements, wills and probate lasting powers of attorney, mediation, arbitration, collaborative family law and divorce. We have offices in Maidenhead and Beaconsfield, and cover the whole of the Thames Valley. Meeting rooms in London are also available. Get in touch to speak with a friendly solicitor and let us take the weight off your shoulders.Tags: cohabitation, cohabitation agreement, cohabitation agreements Windsor, family law solicitor Thames Valley, family lawyer Beaconsfield, family lawyer Maidenhead