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Can you create "living together" contracts?

Married couples have prenuptial and postnuptial agreements to organize their divorces, but what do unmarried couples have? More and more couples cohabitate without getting married. Some couples have responded by drafting "living together contracts" or cohabitation agreements. These contracts try to set-up a procedure in the event of a break-up.

A living together contract is a pseudo prenuptial agreement that assigns rights and responsibilities between partners. It operates similarly to prenuptial agreements in that it can assign property rights, set up a procedure in the event of a breakup and arrange for support payments.

Several courts have agreed that these contracts can be enforceable but only for certain provisions. For example, these agreements cannot arrange for sexual services in exchange for support nor can they assign child support and custody rights; the former because it is illegal and the latter because the courts retain ultimate authority over matters concerning children.

Cohabitation agreements can arrange for the following issues:

  • Financial support, or "palimony," in the event of a break-up.
  • Distribution of assets.
  • Assignment of debt.
  • Creation of healthcare directives to allow partners to make medical decisions.

For a living together contract to be valid it must conform to the contract requirements in your state. Namely, it must be agreed to by the parties, it must be understood by everyone involved and it probably should be written down. When in doubt, you can ask an attorney to prepare one for you.

If you are living together with your partner, then you may want to consider getting one of these agreements in place. As you can see, there are many restrictions and deviations from traditional family law. An attorney can help you navigate these rules so you draft an agreement that is enforceable.

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