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What are living together agreements?

UPDATED: February 9, 2020

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Living together contracts, or cohabitation agreements, are drafted by couples that either will not or can not marry. In order to be valid, both parties to cohabitation agreements must have equal bargaining power, and disclose all relevant financial information.  If properly created, a living together contract can overrule standard laws and inform the court of the couple’s intent, and ensure assets are divided and passed correctly.

Living Together Agreements vs. Premarital Agreements

Living together agreements will not have the same force and ultimate effect as a premarital agreement. The reason for this is that most states have absolutely no laws or even court decisions regarding living together contracts. Because of this, the court will use only general contract principles when evaluating the validity of cohabitation agreements. Even more concerning, many states will not recognize the living together agreement at all if you do decide to get married.
As with premarital agreements, safeguarding income and assets and negotiating an agreement in the event of termination of the relationship or death is far easier to accomplish when neither party is angry, under stress, or hostile. The agreement should cover all the property (and debt) you had at the beginning of the relationship as well as any property you accumulate. Normally, you would add provisions for support (or lack of support), on keeping each person’s property and income separate, sharing expenses, living arrangements, personal belongings, and so forth. Some include provisions for arbitration or mediation to deal with future disputes.

Drafting a Living Together Contract

When drafting a living together contract, there are a few rules that must be followed so that the court will consider your contract completely valid.

  • You both must have equal bargaining ability. With any contract, the courts require that the parties making the contract are able to equally communicate and negotiate their best interests. When in doubt, the simplest and most effective way to meet this requirement is to both hire separate attorneys to handle drafting the agreement. This may sound like a very extreme measure to take, but remember that this measure is always taken for pre-marital agreements, which are recognized and honored by the courts.
  • You must be completely honest about your debts, liabilities, and assets. Do not hide any of this information during the negotiation or the court may consider the agreement invalid due to your dishonesty.

There must also be adequate consideration. This means that both you and your partner must both give and get something from the living together contract. When creating cohabitation agreements, each party should consult a separate attorney.

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