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Do I Need a Cohabitation Agreement in California?

Posted on in Family Law

Los Gatos cohabitation agreement attorneyMany people choose to live with a romantic partner on a long-term basis without becoming legally married. They may look and act like a married couple. They may share bank accounts, co-own property, and even have children together. However, when cohabiting couples in California separate—whether due to a breakup, death, or disability—they can run into serious difficulties, because California law does not grant cohabiting couples the same rights and responsibilities that are afforded to legally married couples. Unmarried couples can, however, sign a contract called a cohabitation agreement (also known as a “no-nup”), which is similar to a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement signed by couples who do marry.

When Should I Consider a California Cohabitation Agreement?

If you and your partner both work and contribute fairly toward your household expenses but otherwise keep your finances separate, you may not see the need for a cohabitation agreement. However, over time, your circumstances might change, and your finances may become more intermingled. There are several situations in which a cohabitation agreement can be of significant benefit to you, such as:

  • You are the primary home-manager while your partner is the primary income-earner. In this situation, you could be sacrificing the opportunity to build your own career and income potential. If your relationship ends suddenly, you could find yourself in dire financial straits until you can find a job and rebuild your career. A cohabitation agreement can be written to provide protection in this scenario. For example, your partner could agree to pay you the equivalent of spousal support for some period of time after a break-up or provide you with a lump sum payment or inheritance in the case of their death.
  • You are the primary income-earner while your partner is working to obtain an advanced degree. Suppose that you agree to work and support your partner financially while he or she completes law school or medical school, with the expectation that you will both benefit financially in the future. In a cohabitation agreement, your partner could agree to reimburse you for that support if your relationship ends within a certain timeframe.
  • You and your partner buy a home together. A cohabitation agreement can document how much each partner shall contribute to the down payment, mortgage payments, and other costs. It can also define a process for managing or selling the property in the event that your relationship ends for any reason. 
  • You have significant assets that you want to protect. A cohabitation agreement can spell out ownership of assets acquired before and during the relationship. This can prevent disputes in the event of a hostile breakup. The agreement can also specify what you want your partner to inherit in the event of your death.

Contact an Experienced Los Gatos Family Law Attorney

You can enter into a cohabitation agreement at any time, even if you have already been living together for years. To make sure the terms of your agreement are clearly understood and legally enforceable, work with an experienced Los Gatos, CA cohabitation agreements lawyer. At the Law Offices of Benita Ventresca, we will help you understand the legal issues that your agreement should address and make sure that your unique needs are met. Contact us at 408-395-8822 for a free initial consultation.

Sources:

https://www.moneycrashers.com/cohabitation-agreement-living-together/

https://www.marriage.com/advice/cohabitation/cohabitation-agreement/

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