Whilst many unmarried couples take the view that they don’t need a piece of paper to prove their love for one another, latest trends would suggest otherwise albeit this piece of paper is not a marriage certificate but is in fact quite a few pieces of paper, which are signed, witnessed and notarised with the snappy title ‘no-nup’.

Readers will be familiar with pre-nups, which are becoming increasingly popular amongst wealthy individuals and those marrying for the second (or third) time around who wish to protect their assets in the event of a future split. The Law Commission have recommended that provision is made in statute for so-called “qualifying nuptial agreements” setting down a number of ground rules which must be adhered to in order for an agreement to be “qualifying” and therefore binding on those that enter into them.

The emergence of no-nups

Not wanting to feel left out, unmarried couples have shown an interest in making similar agreements, which set out what will happen to their assets if they were to split up. Many unmarried, cohabiting couples, are still labouring under the common misapprehension that the law recognizes a form of “common law” marriage and that upon the breakdown of their relationship, there will be similar remedies available to them (in the form of sharing of assets or spousal maintenance) as there are to couples who are divorcing. Sadly, at present, this is not the case. Therefore, it is  prudent to at least consider and if possible put down into a formal agreement how the unmarried couple’s affairs will be dealt with, should the relationship break down.

With house prices rising at an alarming rate, it’s no wonder that young couples are pooling their funds and their mortgage capacities in an attempt to meet the ever-increasing asking prices on property. Often, the parties’ contributions to the purchase price will be unequal, for example, one party might have a deposit provided to them by their parents, who wish to help them get on the property ladder. This is often hard-earned cash that has been put aside by diligent parents who will be reluctant to see that cash in the hands of anyone other than its intended recipient.

A combination of a younger generation who are alive to and arguably more accepting of the concept of pre-nups and their cautious parents are finding their way to lawyers’ offices asking for what is now known as a no-nup – otherwise known as a cohabitation agreement.

What does a no-nup / cohabitation agreement cover?

Deeds of trust have long been an option for setting out and making official the way in which property is owned and the parties’ respective contributions. A no-nup can do this and so much more. A no-nup can set out the way in which finances are to be regulated during the relationship, even down to who should pay which bill, when they should pay it and from which account. It has been reported that couples are open to this as it removes financial tension from the relationship since everyone’s roles are clearly defined and set out in a document, the contents of which have been carefully considered and agreed upon by the parties themselves and then drafted into an agreement by experienced lawyers.

The no-nup can also deal with the division of assets and property upon splitting, although the same difficulties come to bear as when drafting a pre-nup; you are dealing with a hypothetical split some time in the future when circumstances may well and will likely be very different. For example, if a couple has children then provision will, naturally, need to be made for them separately from that which has been set out in the no-nup.

Some people just do not believe in marriage but others are simply keen to try living together first before they marry; a “try before you buy” of sorts. A well-drafted and carefully considered no nup is simply an insurance policy to cover the time during which you are “trying” and have yet to make a decision on the final purchase. Whilst for some, a no-nup is a step too far from the romantic dream of meeting somebody, falling in love and setting up a home together, others see it as a necessary step to regulating finances during the relationship and protecting themselves and their partner by creating as much certainty as possible should the relationship not end happily ever after.