For the most part, couples can form their cohabitation agreements how they like, so that there’s no set standard for what must be included. An agreement may cover day-to-day activities such as grocery shopping or taking out the trash. Or it may just cover the big stuff: how rent and utility bills will be divided, whether the couple will purchase real estate together, or whether they will combine finances.
A good cohabitation agreement will also set out what the parties’ rights and responsibilities will be if/when they break up. For example, it will detail how finances will be severed and property distributed. It may also provide for “palimony” (like post-divorce spousal support, but for unmarried couples) if, say, one partner supported the other financially through the relationship.
Cohabitation agreements can be very simple. However, if the couple have a significant amount of property between them (particularly if it’s mostly one-sided), they may want to get the help of an attorney.
Most cohabitation agreements hold up in court under contracts law. However, a court will not enforce clauses contingent on sexual services — that’s illegal. Such a clause will always be invalidated by the court, and the court may even use it to strike out the cohabitation agreement as a whole.
A cohabitation agreement may also become invalid if the couple subsequently married. Cohabiting couples who decide to marry should redraft their cohabitation agreement as a prenup — even if it has essentially the same provisions, a court will look more kindly on it if it has the right name and format.
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