A non-married couple acquires no legal rights simply by living together. An unmarried couple’s separation is not governed by the laws governing divorces, nor is their property presumed to be jointly owned. Also, neither partner is typically entitled to any type of spousal support payments. Since cohabitants cannot rely on state laws governing marriage to protect them, legal documents are necessary to ensure fairness upon termination of the relationship.
What does a Cohabitation Agreement Cover?
A cohabitating couple has the option of entering into a cohabitation agreement. A cohabitation agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement except that it is not executed in contemplation of marriage. A cohabitation agreement should cover all elements that would be covered in a prenuptial agreement. It needs to include a list of all assets and liabilities; expectations during the relationship; and how property and debts will be divided if the relationship ends. It can provide for what is expected during, as well as after termination of, the relationship.
What Happens if the Couple Decides to Get Married?
If a couple who has entered into a cohabitation agreement decides to marry, the agreement may still be valid. A court can enforce a cohabitation agreement after marriage if the couple created it a short time before marriage or at a time when marriage was planned and if it meets the standards for premarital agreements.
Courts can also enforce a cohabitation agreement if one partner dies; however, if that person’s will is in direct conflict with the cohabitation agreement, there is potential for a legal fight.
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