It is advisable for both male and female ‘singletons’ to seek legal protection before setting up home with their partner.
Bridget, like many women and men in the first throes of romance, may not give a second thought to legal protection when the time comes to set up home with a partner, but drawing up a cohabitation agreement can save vast legal costs, not to mention heartache and stress, if things don’t go according to plan.
Cohabitation agreements are an up-front method of outlining what belongs to whom, and make both parties aware of the other’s intentions from the start of the relationship.
The agreement can state that the parties intend to live together indefinitely, but when this is no longer the case, it provides protection for the couple in terms of their individual assets. The agreement can also be used to regulate a relationship and state that the parties will open a joint bank account for household bills and other expenses.
At one time, an agreement that was founded on the premise that the contracting parties would be living together in a union other than marriage, would have been declared void as a matter of public policy, and viewed as immoral!
Thankfully, social attitudes have changed dramatically, and it is unlikely that nowadays a cohabitation agreement would be considered invalid on either of these grounds.
However, it is advisable to take legal advice on the construction of the agreement so that proper care can be taken to ensure that it is expressed in an enforceable manner.
Other jurisdictions have a less idealistic view of cohabitation. For example, in the United States, cohabitation agreements have been used for over thirty years, with the exception of a couple of states. And, in New South Wales in Australia and Ontario in Canada there is legislation in place which recognises written contracts between unmarried couples.
There is no doubt that Bridget Jones’s attitude to relationships is a funny and endearing one, but a cautious and practical approach will be less costly in the long-run.