It's estimated that five million unmarried couples are living together in the US. Over 30 percent of singles ages 18-29 are in this group.
For the first time in history, the majority of American households are headed by unmarried or single adults, according to census reports. In Canada, for most purposes, cohabiting partners of the same or opposite sex are treated as married. It's not the same here.
Without a cohabitation agreement, unmarried romantic partners will be treated as "legal strangers" in the event of breakup or death. They don't get the rights and protections of law that married couples enjoy.
An agreement defining your relationship will protect both parties and prevent palimony suits and ensure a fair distribution of property.
Cohabitation agreements should cover the following:
- Distribution of property in case of death.
- Financial support during the relationship and after a split.
- How the debts of the relationship will be paid.
- Real estate purchases should be in both names with rights of survivorship.
- Support and visitation of any children born.
- Proxy for emergency medical decisions for each.
Some practical tips for merging two lives:
- Keep separate bank and checking accounts. But open a joint account to be used only for household expenses.
- Decide what percentage each will contribute to living expenses.
- Create a budget and decide who will manage bill payments.
The contract should state that it "contemplates and compensates" for all services provided by either party. "Sexual services" are not consideration for the agreement. Division of property will be based upon the percentage each contributed to the partnership.
This agreement will avoid turmoil and litigation at the termination of the relationship. It may be the starting point for a later marriage but many singles are not considering marriage. Same-sex unions are also in need of an agreement.
Small claims courts are full of cases involving couples who have departed but are making claim for loans, credit card debt, division of property, or for lease obligations. It's important for un-married cohabitating persons to protect themselves. What has been your experience?