Legally Defining Cohabitation
In simple legal terms, cohabitation is a living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together and engages in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage. Simply living together does not guarantee either party any rights in the property the other party acquired while cohabitating. However, if you voluntarily live with a partner, you can opt to enter into a legally binding contract that establishes the rights and duties of either party. In a cohabitation agreement, both parties would be able to state their rights, obligations, and agreements prior to a breakup, split, or death.
Some of the specific financial preferences you can set in a cohabitation agreement include the right to either pool your earnings and hold all property acquired during the relationship separately, jointly, or to be governed by community property laws. Those who enter into a contract of this nature can also opt to pool only a portion of their earnings and property, form a partnership or joint venture or joint enterprise, or hold property as joint tenants. Other reasons that a couple might choose to enter into a cohabitation agreement include matters of estate planning and medical care. When it comes to unmarried partners living together, a bit of estate planning, power of attorneys, and a nonmarital agreement can go a long way.
Benefits of Cohabitation Agreements
Those who choose to cohabitate might be hesitant to sign any sort of legally binding agreement. After all, they pursued a lifestyle of cohabitation in lieu of a legally binding traditional marriage. However, most couples who cohabitate do not report avoiding legal contracts as the main motivation behind their decision. Rather, when given a survey of the reasons why they cohabitate, most couples listed factors like spending more time together, convenience, and testing their relationship, and a few listed that they do not believe in marriage. While entering into a contract might not be at the top of their minds, they would be wise to do so. This is because a cohabitation agreement can provide the following benefits for a couple:
- Each partner’s obligations will be clear with regards to joint and separate property ownership, joint finances, and care of any children involved.
This includes being able to determine each partner’s entitlement to a home. For example, a cohabitation agreement could state that one partner who moves into a home owned by another will not have the right to live there if the relationship ends. While this might seem like a daunting thought, it can take a weight off your shoulders to know that if the relationship comes to an end, you will not be uncertain as to the next best steps.
- These agreements can clarify intentions and expectations in terms of property ownership and joint investments.
This includes formally determining who pays for household expenses and strategizes a plan of attack should the relationship come to an end. For example, a cohabitation agreement can state that the couple will engage in lawyer-assisted mediation should the relationship come to an end. Fortunately, this will leave no wiggle room when it comes to navigating important matters that the couple became involved in together and allows them to live their lives with a greater sense of ease.
- A cohabitation agreement can allow the couple to have a better understanding of their own financial plans for the future.
For example, if one partner is financially dependent on the other or has children, the provisions for the future in the event of a breakup can be determined in a cohabitation agreement. Cohabitation does not automatically hold any obligation for ongoing support in the same way that a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership might. However, the same rules in terms of child support obligations still apply.
- The partners can feel less stress surrounding a potential breakup and its aftermath.
Although it is never our goal for a good relationship to end, the unfortunate truth is that we know it happens. The end of a long relationship, especially one where the partners were living together, can be a challenging time for all parties involved. Even if you are enjoying your relationship and do not see a breakup in the near future, it is easy to let the anxieties of breakup complications and logistics fog your mind and prevent you from living in the moment and actually enjoying your relationship. The more assets you acquire with your partner and the more you two build your lives together, the more these anxieties can escalate. There is no need to worry about the logistics of a breakup that hasn’t even happened. Because you will have the comfort of knowing that your affairs will be handled in the unfortunate event of a breakup, a cohabitation agreement can put your fears at bay and empower you to fully enjoy the present.
Are you ready to start cohabitating with greater peace of mind? Call Cutter & Lax Attorneys at Law at (818) 839-2533 or contact us online to pursue a legally binding cohabitation agreement today.