You’ve done the dating thing and now you’re ready to take the next step. But is living togetherright for you?
Although living together before (or even instead of) marriage has become an extremely popular trend across the States, there are still some reasons that you should think twice before agreeing to make the move.
If,for example, one of you makes considerably more than the other, it may be difficult to deal with a break-up later on. Being financially dependent upon your partner can create resentment on both sides and leave the lesser-earning partner feeling “trapped” with no way out. In a marriage, a lesser-earning spouse could seek alimony to make up for the financial burden of a divorce but with a cohabitating couple – although not impossible – financial support can be more difficult to obtain. See our article on palimony for more about this topic.
Your intent for the future of the relationship is another concern. Although not always the case, living together can often “relieve some of the pressure” for marriage, especially for men. If it’s your desire to get married, you may want to address this up front or at least agree to address again after a set period of time as a cohabitating couple.
Also keep in mind that some states still have common-law provisions for cohabitating couples that hold themselves out as married. In general, if you and your partner have been living together for a considerable period of time, own joint assets and tend to present yourself to the public as “married”, you may find that a breakup isn’t enough to legally end the relationship.
In the plus side, cohabitation allows you to really get to know your partner so if marriage is, in fact, something you’re entertaining, there may be fewer surprises after the wedding.
Living together also affords quite a few financial benefits such as shared expenses, especially if there’s a cohabitation agreement in place, and can also provide a more intimate and predictable relationship than does living apart.
The key to deciding whether or not to live together will depend upon the parties involved. Its important to talk about the pros and cons and decide what it is the two of you want from the relationship.
Be very honest during these discussions so that you know exactly where you stand before you decide to make the move. Living together can be a wonderful, exciting experience but it can also be an eye-opener. To protect yourself and your assets, you’ll want to be sure that your intentions are clearly documented to avoid any misunderstandings.
If there are children involved, you may want to consider drafting a parenting agreement to outline custody, visitation and other issues that would arise in the event the relationship between you and your partner didn’t last. Also be aware that while a divorce may not be necessary to dissolve the relationship, you would still need to go to court to legally document the custody agreement.