Many couples choose to cohabitate or live together with no immediate intention of gettingmarried. This arrangement may last for years, creating a need to address financial matters andproperty issues between the two parties.
To do this, couples often draft what’s known as a cohabitation agreement or “cohab” for short. This kind of document helps to fill in the protective gaps that unmarried couples often experience with regard to the legal rights and obligations that married couples are provided by law.
For example, a married couple would automatically have the right to make medical decisions for each other and would inherit the “marital estate” should one of the spouses die, according to the laws of their state. For an unmarried couple however, these laws do not apply and a partner in a cohabitating relationship may very well be treated as a stranger by the courts.
In addition, married couples also have rights and entitlements in the event that they laterdivorce. A cohabitating couple would not have these rights and if they separate, they could find themselves battling out property and financial disputes in civil court – which is really not designed to arbitrate the demise of domestic relationships.
Cohabs allow unmarried couples to address these issues and outline expectations in the relationship. These contracts can include property distribution agreements as well as the payment of debts, the right to make medical decisions on behalf of your partner and evenfinancial support after a breakup.
Isn’t A Cohab The Same Thing As A Prenup? Actually, no. A cohabitation agreement takes effect while you and your partner live together but remain unmarried. A prenup is written with the intent of entering into a legally binding marriage and doesn’t go into effect until the marriage has actually taken place. In addition, while prenups are governed by the marriage laws of your state, unmarried couples are not entitled to the rights and protections afforded by these laws and as such, cohabs are governed by general contract laws only. Cohabs are typically considered to be invalid once the couple legally marries.
Is A Cohab Agreement Enforceable? While there are a number of laws and guidelines surrounding prenuptial agreements, a cohabitation agreement can include (or not include) just about anything you want. This flexibility however means that the enforcement of cohabs are less ensured than it would be for a valid prenup.
That said, a cohab does give you some legal standing and if it is entered into willingly and is witnessed and notarized, it will often be treated as a binding contract by the courts.