Cohabitation Agreement

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Outlining Expectations for Your Future Together

Many unmarried couples are choosing to live together rather than formally marry. If this is something you are contemplating, it is in the best interest of you and your partner to clearly set expectations, both financially and otherwise, when you move in together.

Unmarried partners who choose to live together should consider a cohabitation agreement. Cohabitation agreements are mutually beneficial to both parties and are not just for those who are wealthy. These agreements often define the relationship between the parties, preemptively address possible issues if the relationship is severed by choice or by death, and provide peace of mind in the event that the circumstances surrounding your relationship change. 

At Goranson Bain Ausley, we know that clearly defining expectations and protecting assets are important to cohabitating couples as well as married couples. We will work with you to identify your concerns, discuss your options, and determine the right strategy going forward, whatever that may entail for you and your family. 

What is a Cohabitation Agreement? 

Similar to a prenuptial agreement, cohabitation agreements outline a couple’s expectations during the course of their relationship and in the event that it comes to an end.  A few things a cohabitation can outline are: 

  • Confirming that you are not then married, have no intention of being common-law married, or will only be married in a formal ceremony if you ever choose to be married
  • How property accumulated during the relationship should be treated and possibly divided if the relationship severs
  • Who owned what prior to moving-in together
  • How expenses will be paid going forward
  • Will any property, like a residence, be purchased together while living together
  • What happens to money and property if the relationship ends due to separation or death
  • Who has to move from a jointly-owned or leased residence if the relationship ends
  • How conflict should be resolved if there is a dispute

Who Benefits from a Cohabitation Agreement? 

All couples can benefit from a cohabitation agreement, whether wealthy or not. These agreements often define the relationship between the parties, preemptively address possible issues if the relationship is severed by choice or by death, and provide peace of mind in the event that the circumstances surrounding your relationship change.  The longer you live together, the more likely you both are to accumulate money, property, and debt that can be difficult to separate in the event of a breakup. If you have children together or have children from prior relationships, there may be other issues that need to be discussed as part of the cohabitation agreement. And in some instances, one partner may find they are having to defend against an allegation of common-law marriage, which is recognized in Texas, and is the same as if you had married in a formal marriage ceremony.  At a minimum, a cohabitation agreement can help couples avoid expensive and extensive legal consequences if one partner tries to assert that the parties, in reality, are married and not just living together. Couples who expect a long-term unmarried relationship or who are in a long-term relationship tend to get cohabitation agreements for these reasons. 

A Goranson Bain Ausley Attorney Can Help 

Even if you and your significant other have an agreement in mind, it is important to speak to a family law attorney. An informal agreement and/or unwritten agreement may make you vulnerable to gaps or allegations of ambiguity and may not be enforced if you need to pursue legal action. Working with one of our experienced family law attorneys can help protect you, your interests, your finances, and can help you avoid potential problems down the road. Our family lawyers have the skill and knowledge you need for creating a durable cohabitation agreement that will give you and your partner clarity and peace of mind about the future.

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