Cohabitation Agreements: “Couple Contracts”

cohabitation agreements

In recent years, there has been an increase in couples who decide to live together before they get married, if they want to get married at all. Couples who cohabitate may think they have the same protections as married couples to shared persona and real property if they separate, but for the most part, they do not. By entering into a cohabitation agreement, unmarried couples and cohabitants who are not couples, can outline and agree to the rights that each person has to the shared property in the event they separate.

What Are Cohabitation Agreements?

A cohabitation agreement is a written contract that establishes the parties’ rights and obligations with respect to the home and/or any other shared property. You can avoid a laundry list of legal problems by putting your cohabitation agreement in writing. Among other things, a cohabitation agreement can help avoid disputes when you commingle money and property; clarify what your intentions and expectations are regarding property ownership and responsibility for household expenses; and set out what happens to the property in the event you decide to separate.

Cohabitation agreements are a great idea for couples who are in, or plan to be in, long-term relationships where money, property, and debt are expected to accumulate and be commingled between the partners. Cohabitation agreements are also a great idea for older adult couples who choose not to get married, and want to ensure that their respective property is distributed according to their wishes upon their death.

What to Include in a Cohabitation Agreement

A cohabitation agreement is more flexible and less regulated than a marital agreement. Cohabitation agreements typically include provisions that address distribution of real and personal property in case of death or breakup; financial support during and/or after the relationship; payment of debts incurred before and during the relationship; support, custody, and/or visitation rights for minor children; determination of responsibility for health insurance; and advanced health care directives and power of attorneys. 

Enforceability of Cohabitation Agreements

The majority of states recognize cohabitation agreements (the exceptions are Illinois, Georgia, and Louisiana), but most require that the agreement be in writing and signed by the parties since proving an oral agreement or an implied contract between unmarried cohabitants is difficult. However, some states will allow oral and implied cohabitation agreements in certain circumstances.

Written cohabitation agreements can save you stress and money in the long run, and are an effective way to set out the parties’ expectations and rights in the event the cohabitation comes to an end. A lawyer can ensure that your cohabitation agreement is enforceable, reasonable, and in your best interests. Find an experienced lawyer by quickly posting a short summary of your legal needs on Legal Services Link, and let the perfect lawyer come to you!

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Posted - 07/27/2017