What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement is a voluntary contract between two individuals that are or will be living together for a long period of time, but not in a marriage arrangement. It is a written contract that sets forth your mutual rights and obligations with respect to joint and separate property, as well as stating any other financial or general obligations or expectations you wish to agree upon in advance of (or even after) moving in together.

Each individual will need to obtain their own attorney – one to draft and one to review the Cohabitation Agreement.

When is a Cohabitation Agreement Needed?

Reason 1: Intend to Provide your Partner with Certain Rights. By choosing to cohabitate without marriage, couples are foregoing certain rights and protections provided for them in a marital union. Unmarried couples can generally acquire similar rights of married couples by expressly securing their benefits in a Cohabitation. Examples of rights that can be included are:

  • Right to receive a property settlement and/or support in the event of divorce;
  • File joint tax returns;
  • Receive distributions from estates free of estate tax;
  • Receive survivor’s benefits from retirement plans and Social Security;
  • Obtain “family” health insurance, dental insurance, and other employment benefits; and
  • Share in his/her partner’s property in the event he/she dies without a will.

Reason 2: Avoid being Surprised and Obligated to Provide your Partner with Certain Rights. Unmarried couples may create “implied” nonmarital agreements, without ever writing it down or expressly speaking about it. Rather, a court can evaluate the couple’s actions to determine if such an agreement has been implied in their relationship. If no implied agreement is found, a judge can presume that the parties intended to “deal fairly with each other”, and grant one party rights and obligations consistent with equity and fairness.You should be proactive and define your own partnership through a legal contract.

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