Are you living with your partner? Don’t intend on getting married? Get a Cohabitation Agreement.

There are many people choosing to live with a partner and not get married. We recommend you create a cohabitation agreement. A cohabitation agreement is like a prenuptial agreement, you determine what financial and family issues you want addressed should you break-up or in an emergency.  Dividing property after a divorce is one thing but dividing property after a breakup is another. All states have laws that address how a married couple must divide their property after a divorce, but non-married couples have no such laws to fall back on.

Will you have a joint bank account?  Who will contribute what percentage of income into the residence?  What property will be purchased jointly – real estate? Motor vehicles?  Furniture?

You will need to disclose your financial situations to one another so there is an understanding of debts, assets, obligations, incomes, is also part of this process.  Each partner will then sign it and keep a signed copy for themselves. As with a prenuptial agreement, the time to review the agreement should not be rushed or based upon something occurring such as the signing of a lease.  You want to allow time for consideration and independent attorney review.

Your cohabitation agreement can general or specific. Some couple’s agreement will include specific terms about childcare, support, and guardianship. Do you already have a house, a dog, or bills? Your shared interests in what you own can cause problems in the event of a break-up or death.

If you and your partner want to live together but want to safeguard individual property to leave it adult children, you each can waive the right to receive any property from your partner as an inheritance. It is important to state this in writing to make your desires clear.

Cohabitation agreements have clauses for personal property, debts, inheritances, and healthcare decisions if one partner becomes incapacitated. You and your partner will have to discuss what issues are important to you, how you wish to address them, and any restrictions you wish to include.

We recommend your cohabitation agreement refers to how all of the property gets divided. What you have now, as well as any property you might obtain in the future.  If you or your partner have debts, such as student loans, or either of you acquires debts during the relationship, dividing responsibility for those debts through your agreement is essential. How you intend to acquire joint debts, such as a credit card. Your cohabitation agreement should address how different types of debt get divided after a breakup, as well as who is responsible for making payments while you are still together. Most people consider pets part of the family, the law deems them property. You decide who cares for any pets, pays pet expenses, and who keeps what pets.

Non-married couples do not have an automatic right to any spousal support. Your cohabitation agreement can address support payments directly, either by stating that both of you agree there will be no such payments in the event of a breakup or by providing the details of any payments that will be made. If you decide to agree on support, you will specify the terms of who pays, how much, and for how long. Other factors such as how long the relationship lasted, if one partner agreed to raise any children, leave the workforce, pay for or pursue an education, or make other contributions to the relationship in lieu of earning income.

Healthcare is another area in which there are significant legal differences between married couples and those living together outside of marriage. Your cohabitation agreement should address who is responsible for obtaining health insurance coverage and how much each partner must contribute toward it. This is especially important if one partner intends to stay home and not work or otherwise does not have access to employer-provided coverage.


Lifestyle clauses often address infidelity and an agreement to pay a financial penalty. Some choose to state intention of where the couple will spend vacations. Decision on which partner will move out, how much and what kind of notice will be provided to each other, if you intend to sell jointly owned property or whether one partner will buy out the other are considerations to include in your cohabitation agreement.

When you decide to move in together, there is more than intimacy and living space, you are sharing financial, healthcare and possibly even children responsibilities. The law does not provide for non-married couples as it does married couples. To make sure your desires are legally protected; you create a cohabitation agreement.