Cohabitation by unmarried couples is becoming increasingly more common every year. This means that the standard rules regarding divorce and property division do not apply to these couples. So how do they divide property that they purchase together? Are they expected to keep a running tally of assets, bills paid and other tit-for-tat lists? There is a growing movement for "living together contracts," to try and anticipate potential breakups and to create a framework in how to deal with dividing up the property. These contracts are intended to operate along similar lines as prenuptial agreements. This article will explore these contracts and how one may be useful for you.
These agreements can only serve to dispose of financial rights like: partner support, property division and inheritance. They typically cannot require personal services in exchange for financial support, i.e., no maid services or sexual relations in exchange for room and board. They may include provisions discussing child support and custody, like in a prenuptial agreement, however the court retains ultimate authority over what is best for any children.
These agreements must be in writing and signed by both parties. These contracts cannot be enforced in family court since the couples are not married, instead they must be enforced in traditional courts as a standard "breach of contract" claim. So these agreements operate in a quasi-family law ? contract law arena.
Couples generally use these agreements to dispose of the following items:
- Inheritance of property, by creating a joint-tenancy with right of survivorship. This is a fancy way of saying your partner will inherit your property should you pass away.
- Allocate debts and liabilities.
- Financial support, if any.
- Rules on property division or specific divisions upon a breakup.
- Creating health care directives and assigning power of attorney, so your partner can make medical decisions on your behalf.
If you are considering one of these agreements, then you may want to speak to an attorney to guide you. You should not risk your agreement being invalidated because you tried to include a provision that is not permitted.