Marriage isn’t for everyone. In this day and age, many couples live together, share assets and expenses, and act like they are in a committed married relationship without ever going through the legal process of obtaining a marriage license.
If you are in a long-term cohabitating relationship or a “common law” marriage, signing a cohabitation agreement with your spouse is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your current and future financial arrangements.
Read on to learn more about cohabitation agreements from our divorce attorney team at The Drake Law Firm, PC. Even though it may not seem related to divorce, the process of legally setting up a cohabitation agreement is similar to creating a settlement agreement in the divorce process.
Cohabitation Agreement: The Basics
A cohabitation agreement is a legal contract that details how you and your partner or significant other will divide financial responsibilities during your relationship and if it ends.
Consider a married couple beginning a divorce case. The couple’s marriage license creates legal protection for each spouse to receive a fair division of property and assets after their divorce proceedings finalize. Without this marital contract, one spouse could claim complete possession of the couple’s shared assets without any legal consequences.
Now consider your long-term relationship. If you and your partner end your relationship, you have no legal document to back up fair property division without a marriage license.
A cohabitation agreement determines your legal division of finances and property during and after your relationship, should you and your partner part ways.
Who Should Consider a Cohabitation Agreement?
A cohabitation agreement can be beneficial for any serious couple who has no plans of marrying any time soon. If you and your partner are cohabitating and considering marriage in the next few years, you may want to wait and create a prenuptial agreement instead.
However, if you and your partner fall into any of the following categories, we recommend starting the process of completing a cohabitation agreement together.
Couples in a “Common Law” Marriage
Suppose you and your partner consider yourselves husband and wife, share the same last name, or present yourselves as a married couple without having an actual marriage license. In that case, you could benefit significantly from a cohabitation agreement.
The court sometimes recognizes couples who meet the above qualifications as being in a “common law” marriage, leading them to have the same rights and protections as legally married couples.
However, a cohabitation agreement can provide an additional layer of protection if the court fails to recognize your common law marriage during a breakup.
Couples Who Live Together Without Being Married
If you and your partner live together without being married, we recommend a cohabitation agreement. Couples who live together often share finances and responsibilities in the same way that a legally married couple does. At the very least, you and your partner probably share the cost of your shared residence. You may have pets or children together as well as shared personal possessions.
A cohabitation agreement can clarify your agreed-upon financial division and responsibilities within your relationship, leaving no room for guessing should the two of you split up.
Couples With Shared Assets or Property
Perhaps the couples who can benefit the most from a cohabitation agreement are those who casually split their expenses or share their assets. This agreement can provide clarity about what property belongs to who after the relationship ends.
What Does a Cohabitation Agreement Include?
Cohabitation agreements detail how you and your partner will share financial responsibilities during and after your relationship. A cohabitation agreement can include as much or as little detail as you and your partner see fit, but most agreements contain the following information at a minimum.
Division of Property
Cohabitation agreements can include information about how the two of you share ownership of property, such as a house, cars, furniture, appliances, and other pricey items.
Division of Debts
These agreements can detail how you and your spouse will share loans and debts in one or both of your names.
Division of Expenses
A cohabitation agreement can clarify how you and your spouse will share everyday expenses, such as rent, utilities, insurance, and other expenses during your relationship.
Division of Inheritances
Cohabitation agreements can also give couples a place to plan for end-of-life matters, such as what property one spouse will inherit if the other spouse dies.
How The Drake Law Firm, P.C. Can Assist Your Cohabitation Agreement Process
Determining how you and your partner will divide property, expenses, assets, and inheritances can be overwhelming. At the Drake Law Firm, our divorce attorney team has the proper experience and knowledge to guide you through every step of the cohabitation agreement process.
We can sit down with the two of you and discuss all relevant financial matters during and after your cohabitation. Discussing your cohabitation agreement with our team can help you both feel confident in your shared financial responsibilities moving forward.
If you’re searching for a “lawyer for divorce near me” to assist with your cohabitation agreement, we can help. Contact our team at the Drake Law Firm today at (303) 261-8111 to schedule your initial consultation.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.