Even if they aren’t getting married, couples moving in together should still consider the future. Most partner cohabitation ends one of two ways: the couple gets married, or the couple breaks up. If they get married, suddenly all the marriage- and divorce-related laws discussed on this site become applicable. If they break up — well, it will go easier for them if they initially took some steps to protect themselves and their rights. Specifically, if they signed a cohabitation agreement.
A cohabitation agreement is kind of like a prenup for nonmarried couples, except perhaps more crucial. Whereas laws will, in most cases, protect the rights of the spouses in a divorce case, there is little if any statutory protection for unmarried couples parting ways. If couple accumulated property, had children, or combined finances during their relationship, they may well find themselves litigating their separation and wishing the details were more set out ahead of time.
A cohabitation agreement provides that clarification through a contract that sets out many of the rights and responsibilities of both parts if/when they end the relationship. The agreement may set out how the property will be divided, where the kids will live, whether one person will help support the other (“palimony”), and the like.
That’s not to say a cohabitation agreement fixes all problems, however — even with one, couples breaking up may find themselves in court hashing out the details. Still, the more prepared, the better.
Photo credit: NobMouse