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Can a Cohabitation Agreement Protect My Rights if I Am Unmarried?

Posted on in Family Law

Santa Clara County cohabitation agreement attorneyStatistics show that more and more couples are delaying marriage or deciding to live together without getting married; in fact, the percentage of adults who have lived with a romantic partner is not only greater than those who have been married, it is the fastest-growing “family type.”

Still, California – like most states – does not recognize common law marriage (i.e. an arrangement where a couple lives together in a relationship similar to being married without actually getting a marriage license), which means that cohabiting couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples. As a result, if an unmarried couple eventually separates, they may encounter costly disputes. To avoid this type of situation, a couple may choose to create a cohabitation agreement, which is similar to a premarital agreement. These agreements can compensate for a lack of protection provided by state law by addressing the following issues:

Property Division

When it comes to the division of property for cohabiting adults, only assets that are in both parties’ names will be considered joint assets. Disputes can arise if one party claims that an asset was purchased using joint assets, one party purchased an asset with the understanding that it belonged to both parties, or one party who does not own the home where the couple lives claims that they still own a share of the equity in the home. 

In these scenarios, the parties may need to hire family law attorneys and go to court to address the ownership of property, and these cases can quickly become expensive. By having a cohabitation agreement in place, couples can avoid these expensive disputes and specify which assets are joint property and/or how joint property is to be divided. A cohabitation agreement can also indicate if a residence is co-owned or if a party is simply living there, under what conditions they are making improvements to the property, etc. Even if a couple is renting an apartment together, a cohabitation agreement can provide both parties with financial security in order to ensure that one does not simply leave and place the other in the problematic position of having to pay out the rest of the lease on their own.

Other Issues

California law does not provide for spousal support when a couple is unmarried, but a cohabitation agreement can specify whether one party will pay this type of support, as well as the amount and duration of these payments. After an agreement is created and signed, it can be adjusted at a later date. For example, if a couple has a child together, they may wish to change their agreement to better address their current financial situation. To ensure that a cohabitation agreement will meet your ongoing needs, it is always a good idea to seek out the advice of a family law attorney.

Contact a Los Gatos Cohabitation Agreement Lawyer

The Law Offices of Benita Ventresca provides legal help to divorcing spouses, unmarried couples, and others who need to address family law issues. If you want to learn more about how we can help you create a cohabitation agreement that will meet your needs, please contact our skilled Los Gatos, CA family law attorney at 408-395-8822 and schedule a free consultation today.

Sources:

https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/11/06/marriage-and-cohabitation-in-the-u-s/

https://ifstudies.org/blog/us-cohabitation-law-still-separate-and-unequal

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