More and more couples these days are deciding to live together or cohabitate before marrying. While living together could offer a way for unmarried partners to test the waters before tying the knot, others see it as a long-term or permanent solution.
Fortunately, cohabitating couples have the option of entering into a cohabitation agreement to try and avoid the legal ambiguities that might follow in the event that they go their separate ways.
Understanding a Cohabitation Agreement
Your cohabitation agreement must cover crucial financial items such as earnings, bank accounts, leases, mortgages, and how personal property and joint assets would be distributed if you break up. It is similar to a prenuptial agreement in that they cover financial matters between couples. These financial matters include whether you will keep your incomes separate or shared, and how you will own property that you invest in while you are together.
The primary difference between a prenuptial agreement and cohabitation agreement is that a prenup is created before marriage, while a cohabitation agreement is drafted while the couple is or before living together.
When creating your cohabitation agreement with your family lawyer in Denver, you and your partner can also designate responsibility for essential household expenses, mortgage or rent payments, and vehicle loans among others, while you are together and in the event of a separation.
Is a Cohabitation Agreement Enforceable?
Specific rules that govern cohabitation agreements differ widely from one state to another. And while a court might enforce an implied or oral agreement under certain circumstances, you would need to provide clear proof of your position.
In general, however, you increase the chances of your agreement being upheld and enforced if:
- Both you and your partners signed the cohabitation agreement.
- Your agreement is in written format.
- The agreement’s terms are fair for all parties.
- You and your partner agreed to enter into the agreement free from duress or pressure.
Do note though that you cannot include certain clauses in your agreement. For instance, the court will not enforce a clause on child custody if you and your partner separate. This is because the court will always champion the best interest of children when deciding on custody issues, and the law does not allow parents to incorporate future plans for their kids in a cohabitation agreement.
In addition, courts do not usually get involved in clauses regarding retirement or pension accounts. This means that if your relationship does not end in marriage, you will not have a claim to each other’s retirement accounts.
Only you and your partner can decide if a cohabitation agreement will be a right move for your relationship. You may decide to enter into one upon having a child, moving together, or if you two have decided that you will not be marrying.
Be open about discussing financial matters and future plans. If you two decide to create a cohabitation agreement, do it together and with help from an experienced lawyer to ensure that it is enforceable and legally binding.