More and more couples today are moving in before – or without the intention of – getting married. (My husband and I lived together for 6 years before tying the knot.) While this decision is an important and exciting one, it leaves each party without any protection.
Despite what some may believe, couples living together do not enjoy the same rights and protections as a cohabiting married couple. In fact, Courts do not recognize in any meaningfully way the couple’s relationship, regardless of how long the two have been together.
When two people move in together, they often begin buying things together like furniture, electronics, and other household goods. Sometimes, one partner moves into the residence of the other. The two may split rent, utilities, and other expenses. Everything is great and there is no conflict – until something happens.
While I hope all relationships last forever, I am realistic. Some won’t, and its important that the parties protect themselves from the beginning. What will happen to all the items purchased together? How will they be divided? If one party moved into the other’s residence, how long does that party have to move out? If the couple moved into a new residence, who will be the one to move out? What if the other party can’t afford to live in the residence by themselves? Who will take the burden of breaking the lease or selling the home?
A break-up is not the only situation that bubbles these questions to the surface. What if one party gets in a serious accident and isn’t able to work? Or loses his or her job? Is the other party going to be responsible for picking up the slack? What if one party passes unexpectedly? The heirs or beneficiaries may be entitled to the deceased party’s possessions, rather than the other person in the couple.
The good news is while unmarried cohabiting couples do not have protections automatically like married couples do, they are able to create protections through a cohabitation agreement. All the questions above as well as many others that apply to an individual situation can be addressed, planned for, and agreed to in this document.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – how depressing, right? You’re moving in with your partner; it’s supposed to be exciting! And, you’re absolutely right: it is exciting. And the moment should be wholly enjoyed.
That excitement does not mean there’s no room for practicality, though. If you’re together forever, wonderful! The cohabitation agreement won’t be used. If things don’t go as planned, however, you’ll have a tool to help make the separation process easier.
Breaking up is hard enough; you don’t want to be fighting over a coffee maker.
To get your affordable cohabitation agreement drafted, schedule your free consultation today.
This website includes information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.
Lauren Lester is an affordable family law, estate planning, and probate lawyer licensed in Colorado.