Cohabitation agreements are very similar to prenuptial agreements, but they apply to couples who live together without getting married. Just because a couple chooses not to marry does not mean they cannot protect their rights together, as well as their individual interests and assets.
Also called non-marital contracts and living together contracts, cohabitation agreements help define the rights and obligations of each partner and set forth how things like money, property, and debt will be handled during and after the relationship.
Why Make a Cohabitation Agreement?
Generally speaking, cohabitation agreements are more flexible and less regulated than marital agreements. If a couple gets married after making a cohabitation agreement, the agreement will no longer apply.
That being said, most couples include the following topics in their cohabitation agreements:
- How expenses will be handled during the relationship
- Financial support that may apply during or after the relationship
- Distribution of property in case of death or breakup
- Renting or owning a residence together
- Paying debts during the relationship
- Making decisions for minor children
- Allowing partners to make choices about the other’s health care in case of incapacity
Any time 2 people share property and finances, signing a contract is a good idea. People sign cohabitation agreements in the same way they sign business partnership agreements. While it may not seem romantic to talk about these things before moving in with your partner, creating a cohabitation agreement can reflect the strength of your relationship and eliminate disagreements and resentment down the road.
Additionally, cohabitation agreements can be a great way to start planning for your future together and address hard questions like what would happen if one partner became incapacitated or died. Courts often pair cohabitation agreements with wills and healthcare directives, which means you can use this time as an opportunity to communicate your last wishes – legally and to your partner.
A Note About Common-Law Marriage
In Texas, couples can also declare themselves in a common-law marriage if they informally agree to be married, live together as husband and wife, and represent to others that they are married. Even though neither partner signs a contract, this is as legally binding as a formal marriage.
Sometimes, couples that live together resolve disputes via common-law marriage and divorce, but if you or your partner oppose marriage for moral or philosophical reasons or do not see or represent yourselves as married, a cohabitation agreement is the only thing that can give you rights as a couple.
According to Section 1.108 of the Texas Family Code:
“A promise or agreement made on consideration of marriage or nonmarital conjugal cohabitation is not enforceable unless the promise or agreement or a memorandum of the promise or agreement is in writing and signed by the person obligated by the promise or agreement.”
Although cohabitation agreements are helpful for upholding promises made within a relationship, you should never enter into a cohabitation agreement without talking to an attorney.
Kay Polk, Attorney at Law can help you create a legally valid cohabitation agreement that works for both you and your partner. Attorney Polk can also help you if you need to enforce a previously established cohabitation agreement.
Whenever you need help with a family law matter, look no further than our firm. Your satisfaction is our priority, we focus exclusively on cases like yours, and we have over 18 years of experience helping families like yours.
Call us at (713) 234-6260 or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation today.