In the event of death or breakup without a cohabitation agreement, you and your partner may be treated as legal strangers.
If you have chosen cohabitation over marriage – you aren’t alone. Cohabitation between married partners has increased 1,150 percent in the last 40 years. Many myths still exist, however, about the concept of “living together”. The fact remains that, unless you define your partnership through a legal contract, the law may view you as strangers in the case of a breakup or death.
What is Cohabitation?
In recent years, the concept of cohabitation has expanded to include any two partners who have integrated their residence, property and daily lives. It is often seen as a starting point for people headed toward marriage, but can also be an ultimate arrangement for couples who do not want the social, personal and legal commitment that marriage represents. There are numerous other reasons individuals cohabitate, including:
- Reduction of living expenses.
- Inability of a union of same-sex individuals to be recognized by the law.
- Choice by older individuals who do not want to upset family or friends through remarriage.
By choosing cohabitation, couples are foregoing certain rights and protections provided for them in a marital union. Married couples accrue legal rights, including the right to receive a property settlement and/or support in the event of divorce; file joint tax returns; receive distributions from estates free of estate tax; receive survivor’s benefits from retirement plans and Social Security; obtain “family” health insurance, dental insurance, and other employment benefits; and automatically share in his/her partner’s property in the event he/she dies without a will. Unmarried couples, on the other hand, generally acquire similar rights by expressly securing their benefits in cohabitation agreements (also referred to as cohabitation contracts). A cohabitation agreement is a private contract between cohabitants, which typically tries to establish contractually for the parties the rights and obligations that married people obtain by custom, statute, and agreement.
Regardless of how close your relationship is with your partner, living together does not automatically entitle either one of you to the rights and protections afforded to married couples. It is therefore important for you and your partner to state your rights and obligations in a legal document in the event of a breakup or death. A cohabitation agreement will insure that you and your partner are protected at the same time that it clarifies your understanding of the relationship.
If you feel that you may have a potential case pertaining to family law please call (805) 879-7523 or click here to email us and have an attorney contact you about your case.