Why You Need a Cohabitation Agreement
Living with someone special? Not ready to take wedding vows? You and your significant other need a Cohabitation Agreement.
A Cohabitation Agreement, much like a Power of Attorney, Living Will or Healthcare Directive, and a Last Will and Testament is a legal document that protects your interests in advance of an unfortunate event – in this case, a break-up.
What is a Cohabitation Agreement?
A Cohabitation Agreement is a private contract between people living together in the same household who are in a romantic relationship but not married. Details such as property rights, financial support, dealing with debt, healthcare, caring for children, pets, and more can all be included.
A Cohabitation Agreement permits the couple to determine in advance who will keep specific assets and what will happen to assets that have been purchased together should the relationship end. This agreement is intended to bind both parties.
A Cohabitation Agreement can give each party an idea of the expectations of the relationship with the legal enforceability to protect against financial ruin or the loss of support that was promised. No one likes to think of a relationship as ending sometime in the future, but if it does the cohabitation agreement can prevent an ugly battle as everything was written down in advance.
What Makes a Cohabitation Agreement Binding and Enforceable?
Like all contracts, a Cohabitation Agreement has to meet some basic legal requirements in order for a court to enforce its terms, and that law varies state-to-state. You should talk to a family law attorney in your area if you’re considering making such an agreement.
Some of the basic requirements of a binding contract like a Cohabitation Agreement are:
The actual act of moving in with someone (or continuing to live with someone) is the consideration for entering into the cohabitation agreement.
Fair & Freely Entered
No one can legally force you to enter into a contract. If a judge finds that one party was coerced into signing the agreement, it will be unenforceable.
Should litigation arise over the terms of the agreement, a judge will have to determine whether your cohabitation agreement fair and enforceable. He or she must be certain that both you and your partner entered into it with full knowledge of what terms you were agreeing to. That means, for example, that you have to be upfront about all aspects of your finances.
You will usually have to create and include detailed financial disclosures as a part of the agreement, or at least disclose to each other the full details of your financial situations before entering into the agreement. Revealing your debts, assets, obligations, income, credit scores, and other key pieces of your financial and personal lives is part of this process and is best done in writing.
In Writing and Signed
Verbal agreements and agreements with broad or poorly stated provisions are often difficult to enforce. Once the agreement is written, each partner needs to sign it and keep a signed copy for themselves.
What Should Be Included in a Cohabitation Agreement?
Whether you are a young couple renting your first apartment together, or a mature couple with children from other relationships and much accumulated jointly-owned real and personal property, a Cohabitation Agreement can be used to amicably provide for the dispensing of and responsibility for the following, among others:
●Income, Savings, & Expenses
●Retirement and Savings
●Expenses and Care Decisions regarding children
●Children From Other Relationships
●Terms of Ending the Relationship
How to Draft and Revise Your Cohabitation Agreement
Creating a Cohabitation Agreement doesn’t typically require a lot of time, effort, or money. If you and your partner hire attorneys to negotiate and draft the agreement for you, you can usually get this done in a few weeks.
No one can predict the future, and a key part of any good Cohabitation Agreement is allowing for change. Your agreement should state in clear language what you must do if either you or your spouse wants to make changes to the agreement terms.
Is a Cohabitation Agreement for Us?
When considering whether or not to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement, consider what might happen if you don’t have one, or if you have one that isn’t well-written. The potential financial costs and mental anguish can be significant.
Anticipating a breakdown of the relationship is not the only reason for a Cohabitation Agreement. A more compelling reason to have an agreement is that you know your relationship is strong and you want to make sure that you’re both protected.
No matter how committed you and your partner are to each other, how strongly you feel about each other, and how healthy your relationship is now, the simple fact is that the law doesn’t give you the same rights and protections as a couple who are legally married. If you want the peace of mind of making sure you are both legally protected, you need a Cohabitation Agreement.