Laws regarding cohabitation have undergone considerable changes in the past forty years. The U.S. state laws regarding non-marital cohabitation vary from one state to another. In some states, cohabitation may even be a criminal offense under adultery laws. The primary difference between cohabitation and common-law marriage is that a cohabitant may be legally considered single, whereas a party to common-law marriage is considered married as in a ceremonial marriage.
Cohabiting has its own merits and demerits. The parties agreeing to live together can specifically define their duties and rights in terms of their relationship. Cohabitants do not have to follow stringent legal procedures to separate themselves from the living arrangement. On the other hand, unmarried couples in a living relationship do not enjoy the same rights as married couples with respect to any property acquired during their relationship. Laws relating to marital property do not apply to an unmarried cohabitant.
Cohabitation results in poorer marital outcomes. In premarital partners who cohabited, there is an increased risk of divorce. Family and medical issue studies have revealed that nearly half of the cohabiting couples break up within five years of cohabitation. While entering into an unmarried living relationship, both parties will have their own expectations about the partner and their relationship. However, it is a highly ambiguous state of commitment, and the end cannot be foreseen. Therefore it is always important to have well defined duties, rights and obligations among them. This is made possible by signing prenup contracts or contracts of agreement.
What is a Prenup?
Prenup is the abbreviation for the term prenuptial agreement or a cohabitation agreement. A cohabitation agreement is a contract between two parties, not married and living together, that defines the financial and property arrangements between them. A cohabitation agreement is enforceable in a court of law. Premarital agreements or pre nup agreements provide security to both parties, by including provisions pursuant to the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. In case the relationship does not work out and results in a break-up and the parties end up in courts for their financial and property rights, judges will have a tendency to adhere to the provisions of the prenuptial agreement above all other claims. A living together agreement is a very valuable tool if you want to contest a durable power of attorney. Pre nup agreements are also helpful in the enforcement of a medical power of attorney granted by one cohabiting partner to another, if and when necessary. Under the common law durable power of attorney doctrine, the effectiveness of a power of attorney is lost upon the death or incapacity of its grantor.
Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships
A civil union is another kind of non-marital union recognized by law where an unmarried couple agrees to live together under a contract of agreement similar to marriage. It can be a union of homosexuals as well as heterosexuals. A domestic partnership is different from cohabitation or civil union. In a domestic partnership, domestic partners live together and share a common domestic life under a partner agreement, but they are not joined by marriage. However, states like Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada recognize domestic partnership as being almost equivalent to marriage. Some jurisdictions even provide protection to a domestic partner who lives with another for an extended period of time, but is not entitled to common-law marriage. Civil union and domestic partnership laws are evolving and undergoing drastic changes all around the world. Such cohabiting couples are advised to create a partner agreement and have important legal documents such as a durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and last will and testament.