Deciding to move in with your partner can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking step. In recent years, many couples have decided they would prefer to live together either before marrying or instead of marrying altogether. There are many valid reasons why couples choose these arrangements, but many people do not realize that these arrangements can leave them financially and legally vulnerable should the relationship end.
Cohabitating couples lack the legal safety net that a sanctioned marriage provides. For those who head down the aisle and eventually part ways, Ohio laws determine how a couple will split their assets - or debts – and arbitrate whether either party will need or provide financial support for the other. Any rights of this nature remain out of reach for couples who choose to simply live together instead - unless they sign a cohabitation agreement.
This is why it’s important for unmarried couples to consider a cohabitation agreement before living together. A cohabitation agreement is an enforceable contract between two people who intend to live together as long-term or lifelong partners but who do not wish to get married. The agreement outlines the rights and responsibilities of both parties and helps protect their interests should they decide at some point in the future that their relationship has come to an end.
A well-crafted cohabitation agreement can help protect both partners from any future financial or legal issues that may arise if they decide to part ways. This type of contract also helps ensure that each partner's wishes are respected in case of death or disability. With this in mind, it is important for couples considering living together to understand what a cohabitation agreement entails before entering into one.
Designing a Cohabitation Agreement
A cohabitation agreement can cover a variety of topics, including:
- Division of income and expenses during the relationship
- Division of assets and debt after the relationship
- Management and division of any businesses or property
- Plans in case of disability
- Financial support payments
- Disbursement of retirement funds
- The decision to have or not have children
- What will happen to pets
A cohabitation agreement can provide a plan to many tricky questions couples may face. It can even delineate how custody, visitation, and support of any shared children should be managed, though these specific issues pertaining to a couple’s children would still be subject to review by a family law court. And if marriage is a possibility later down the line, a cohabitation agreement can include a provision requiring a prenuptial agreement before tying the knot.
In other words, a cohabitation agreement can be completely customized to suit the needs and desires of you and your partner. The important thing is that both partners are in agreement regarding the terms laid out in their cohabitation agreement and are aware of any potential implications for each other down the line.
Benefits of a Cohabitation Agreement
Broaching a conversation with your partner about a cohabitation agreement may feel daunting, but it’s worth considering. Having a cohabitation agreement has many benefits, including:
- Improved communication around sensitive topics
- Clarity about each other's roles and responsibilities
- Improved ability to plan for the future
- Peace of mind in case the relationship ends or one partner becomes disabled or dies
Entering into a cohabitating relationship doesn't just mean that you and your partner are deciding to share the same space – it also means that you are agreeing to come together financially. From covering basic expenses like rent, utilities, and groceries, to even more complex decisions about your shared financial future, you and your cohabitating partner will be constantly navigating challenges around money matters. Over time, you can build on the financial foundation that a cohabitation agreement provides as your lives become intertwined and you begin to make more joint financial decisions.
Creating financial transparency within your relationship is key for the longevity of any couple – married or not. Creating a cohabitation agreement provides couples with an invaluable opportunity to come together and clearly define their financial future. Through this honest dialogue, both parties can share in the development of plans for success - whether it be savings goals or outlining expectations if things go sour.
Most importantly, by understanding each other's perspectives on finances from the get-go, couples will be less likely to experience unnecessary conflict should they choose to part ways down the line. Even if things don't work out in the end, this agreement sets forth expectations that will help both partners transition into new lives while ensuring their security at every stage of their relationship journey.
Working with an experienced family law attorney to create a cohabitation agreement is paramount to help ensure that the agreement will be found legally valid and enforceable, if necessary. If you are considering cohabitating with your partner, the knowledgeable legal team at Crossman & McNamee, LLC is here to help you draft a cohabitation agreement that will provide a strong financial and legal base from which to build your relationship.
Contact us online or call us at (937) 468-3796 to schedule a consultation.