Execute a cohabitation agreement. Whether you enter into a living arrangement with a romantic partner or a college roommate, a cohabitation agreement can help both parties avoid financial and emotional woes.
As a family law attorney, Aubrey Connatser regularly recommends cohabitation agreements to couples who want to live together but are not ready to walk down the aisle (today or in the future). Unsure whether a cohab makes sense for you?
According to Aubrey, “First and foremost, it’s important to understand the purpose of a cohabitation agreement and how they differ from premarital agreements. A cohab is a contractual agreement people sign for three main reasons:
- It can give you an affirmative finding and statement that says you and your partner are not common law married or legally married.
- It can establish how finances will be handled during the relationship.
- It can set the rules for disengagement should you decide to part ways.”
7 Key Provisions to Include in a Cohabitation Agreement
Along with affirming your status as a non-married couple to help avoid common law marriage claims, Aubrey recommends couples consider including the following seven provisions when preparing a cohabitation agreement.
1.Who will pay for what and when?
Think about it. You live in a house together, have utilities to pay, bought furniture together, paid for other property together and both names are on various bills. A cohabitation agreement can spell out who pays which bills (and when) both during the relationship and following a split.
2.How will assets be split if you break up?
It’s a good idea to spell out what property belongs to whom before the relationship and before the agreement is signed. This provision can serve as a validation and confirmation of who owned what property before the relationship and clarify what each party takes with him or her should they part ways.
You should also delineate how jointly purchased assets should be divided. For example, if you bought a house together, will you sell the house and split any profits equally or will one party have the option to buy out the other and for how much? You can also establish who will retain custody of any pets in your cohabitation agreement.
3.Who is responsible for debts incurred during the relationship?
When it comes to debt, each party is typically responsible for all debts they personally incur. However, in relationships where one party doesn’t work, the other party might provide him or her with credit cards and a spending allowance. A cohab can clarify the size of the spending allowance and who is going to be liable for credit card and other debt and when.
4.Who pays insurance premiums and for how long?
You can also include provisions regarding who will pay for home, auto and health insurance coverage during the relationship and once you disengage, as well as the amount of time after a break up those premiums will be paid and by whom.
5.How will joint financial accounts be handled?
Many couples establish joint bank accounts to handle household bills during the relationship. A cohab can include a provision covering who contributes how much to financial accounts during the relationship and what will happen to those accounts after dissolution of the relationship. Will monies be split in half or will the party who funded the accounts keep the remaining balance?
6.Who is going to have to move out of the shared residence and when?
You can save yourself a huge headache by including a provision regarding what sort of notice either party would be given to vacate the home upon dissolution of the relationship.
7.Will there be any financial support given to either party post-break up?
In relationships where one party has considerably more wealth, you could include a provision in the cohab where if the party with the money instigates the break up, a set amount of dollars would be given to the other party upon termination of the relationship. These provisions typically hinge upon whether the non-monied party moves out within a specified period of time, which can help simplify the disengagement process.
Cohabitation Agreements Can Offer Peace of Mind Following a Break Up
Just as a premarital agreement can help simplify the divorce process, cohabitation agreements can set expectations for a non-married couple in the event their relationship doesn’t work out. If you plan to move in with a partner or significant other, and marriage isn’t on your mind, contact a reputable family law attorney to discuss the legal options available to you.