Cohabitation Agreement Forms

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How to Protect Your Legal Rights When Living Together

What is Cohabitation?

It is crucial for an unmarried couple or those in a common-law marriage to have a living together agreement or prenuptial agreement. Cohabitation happens when a man and woman live together and have a sexual relationship but are not married. It usually occurs when unmarried couples have been dating for some time, they decide on moving in together, and living together without being married. A lot of times, young people take cohabitation as a good way to test their relationships before getting into a deeper commitment. Unmarried couples who choose to cohabit in preference to marrying are increasing day by day. For most of them, cohabitation seems simple, and they are not particularly aware of its legalities and potential hardships.

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.

Cohabitation FAQ

What is cohabitation?

Cohabitation is a living arrangement in which couples live together without being legally married. Generally, couples moving in together enter into such an arrangement on a long-term or permanent basis. The rationale behind non-marital cohabiting varies from couple to couple. Some unmarried couples cohabit to test their compatibility before marriage, while some feel that marriage is unnecessary.

I have a relationship with a partner where we are living together without being married. Is it necessary for me and my partner to enter into a cohabitation agreement?

Although it is not mandatory, having a cohabitation agreement in place will help cohabiting couples avoid conflicts. A well-drafted cohabitation agreement avoids difference of opinions regarding division of expenses and properties of the couple that is moving in together. In the event the partners separate or if one of them dies, it also avoids confusion about ownership over any property that is acquired by the partners who were living together. Cohabiting couples, including those in a domestic partnership or civil union, may also execute documents such as a durable power of attorney or a medical power of attorney to avoid conflicts in future. While a durable power of attorney gives authority to a partner to act on behalf of the other partner in the event of physical or mental disability of one of them, a medical power of attorney grants authority to make decisions about medical treatment of the other partner.

Are a cohabitation agreement and a common law partner agreement identical?

Yes, a cohabitation agreement and a common law partner agreement are the same. Both cohabitation agreements and common law partner agreements refer to written living together agreements between couples who share a common residence. Such agreements govern the rights and obligations of the parties.

Do couples need to live together for a specified period before entering into a cohabitation agreement?

No, there is no such specification to enter into a cohabitation agreement. Couples who are not married and who want to live together may enter into a cohabitation agreement at any time.

What is a prenup? What are the essentials of a valid prenup?

In general, a prenup is an agreement entered into by parties planning to contract between each other before the main agreement. Commonly, the term prenup is used to denote a pre marital agreement that an unmarried couple enters into prior to marriage. Pre nup agreements are also known as prenuptial agreements. Such agreements specify the rights and obligations of parties in the event of divorce or breakup of marriage. All states recognize a valid prenuptial agreement. In order to be valid, a prenuptial agreement must be in writing, with full and fair disclosure, and must be executed by both parties voluntarily. One-sided agreements or agreements favoring one party will be invalid in the eyes of law.

What are the differences between cohabitation and common-law marriage?

In cohabitation as well as common law marriage, couples live together in a common residence as partners. But cohabitation and common law marriage are not the same in the eyes of law. A cohabitant is legally considered as single and a common law partner is considered as married. In a common law marriage, parties agree to enter into a civil union as husband and wife, whereas in cohabitation, cohabited parties live together without being legally married. Cohabitation alone does not constitute a common-law marriage. For a valid common law marriage, the parties must hold themselves out as husband and wife and acquire a reputation as a married couple. Further, common law marriages are restricted to heterosexual couples.

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