With so many people delaying marriage or skipping the walk down the aisle altogether, cohabitation agreements are becoming more popular.  Cohabitation agreements are simply contracts between two people who live together; as such they can be between members of the opposite sex or members of the same sex.

 Sometimes referred to as "nonmarital contracts" or "living together contracts," these agreements define intentions and expectations of the couple during their relationship, and what they want to happen should a break up occur.  Collin County Family Law Attorneys point out that although oral and implied contracts can be recognized by courts, Texas and Minnesota have passed laws requiring contracts to be in writing, and several states are unwilling to recognize implied agreements.

    For couples living together either prior to marriage or in lieu of marriage, it is a good idea for a cohabitation agreement to contain many of the same terms that a prenuptial agreement contains.  For instance, each party should be clear about their expectations regarding property: (1) brought to the relationship by each; (2) acquired during the relationship; and (3) inherited or received by gift by each party during the relationship.  If the property is clearly identified, it makes it easier to agree upon its division should the relationship end; the agreed upon division should be included in the cohabitation agreement also. 

    Another issue to include in cohabitation agreements is the parties' understanding regarding rights and responsibilities for household expenses: food, utilities, housing costs, childcare costs, etc.  Cohabitation agreements typically do not discuss division of labor issues between the couple for reasons of public policy and enforceability.  Cohabitation agreements can include support for the dependent partner, along the lines of spousal support which neither party is entitled to if they break up since they were never married.  If, for instance, one party makes sacrifices in his or her career in order to raise the couple's children, and the couple eventually parts ways, the cohabitation agreement can include monetary support for the party that became financially dependent. 

    The above scenario is becoming more and more common.  Collin County Family Law Attorneys note that a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 22% of U.S. births from 2006-2010 were to unmarried, cohabitating couples.  While cohabitation agreements can go far to define a couple's expectations with respect to their property, finances, and the provision of support for a dependent party upon the end of the relationship, the contracts are limited in their ability to decide matters of child custody and support.  The best interests of the child, the legal standard in family court, will always trump a contract.  The child's parents can request certain custody and support arrangements, but it will be up to the opinion of the family court as to whether the proposed arrangements are in the best interests of the couples' child or children.

    Cohabitation agreements can be used for a variety of reasons; they can be used when a couple is living together prior to marriage, or they can be used to make clear that the couple is not marrying.  The best reason to have a cohabitation agreement, however, is to protect yourself, your partner, and your relationship.  If you are living with someone, call the Collin County Family Law Attorneys at Nordhaus Walpole, PLLC to discuss an agreement that works for you.