Cohabitation

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on Cohabitation.

Cohabitation and the Law
But Is It Legal
The Do's and Don'ts
Sample Cohabitation Agreement

Cohabitation and the Law


There are many reasons cohabitating couples may cite for not getting married. Some may say that they do not need a "piece of paper" to prove their love and commitment to each other. Other couples choose to live together without getting married in order to avoid the legal entanglements that can arise should the relationship end. Couples basing their decision on the latter reason should bear in mind that although cohabitating relationships often dissolve fairly simply, that is not always the case.

Perhaps the most notorious example of the legal quagmire that can surround the end of a cohabitating partnership is the case of Lee and Michelle Triola Marvin. Lee Marvin, the famous actor, and his partner, Michelle, lived together for several years before deciding to call it quits. When they did, Michelle claimed that she was entitled to support and an equal division of the property acquired during the relationship, but the actor disagreed.

Michelle claimed that she and Lee had an oral agreement that provided that while they lived together, they would "combine their efforts and earnings and would share equally any and all property accumulated as a result of their efforts whether individual or combined." According to Michelle, the agreement also provided that Michelle's contributions would be in the form of her services "as a companion, homemaker, housekeeper and cook." Michelle sought the help of the California courts in enforcing this alleged oral agreement, such that she would be entitled to half of all of the property the couple had acquired.

The first court to hear the matter held in favor of Lee Marvin. Michelle appealed, however, and the appellate court agreed with her, at least in theory. It concluded that adults who live together are just as competent as any other individuals to enter into contracts regarding their earnings and property. The fact that a contract is not in writing does not necessarily make it unenforceable. Even implied contracts, the court stated, are worthy of enforcement.

Once the court had determined that an implied contract relating to the property rights of unmarried cohabitants was enforceable, it considered, in a separate proceeding, whether there was a valid contract in that particular case. The court, once again in an appellate decision, concluded that Lee Marvin had not in fact agreed to support Michelle or share his property with her, and thus she was not entitled to "palimony."

Although it may appear that tough guy Lee Marvin got off free as a bird in this case, his freedom came at a significant cost-over five years of litigation and significant expenditures of time, money, and emotional energy. If the court had found an oral agreement, the result would have been even costlier for Mr. Marvin, although arguably fairer to his cohabitant.

There is a lesson to be learned from this story. Perhaps the best way to avoid the type of situation faced by the Marvins is to enter into a cohabitation agreement before moving in together. The agreement can set forth the expectations of the parties in a legally enforceable manner, so that one partner does not end up saddled with an unanticipated financial burden or, conversely, a partner who is promised future support can enforce that expectation. An experienced attorney can help you draft an enforceable cohabitation agreement that best protects your rights and interests, and can advise you on property and money management issues so that you preserve your rights.
Source: family.findlaw.com/marriage/living-together/cohabitation-lessons.html

The Do's and Don'ts


DO consider entering into a cohabitation agreement before moving in together. It can set the ground rules for the financial and other arrangements in the relationship, and may prevent a lot of headaches if the relationship doesn't last.

DO hold title to any major purchases in the name of the person or persons who is/are actually paying for it. If you buy a car with your own down payment and make all the monthly payments yourself, the car should be in your name only. Joint purchases, however, should be in the names of both parties.

DO keep finances separate if you want to avoid heated disputes in the event the relationship terminates.

DO keep accurate records of your financial contributions to any property held by your partner.

DO write "gift" or "loan" on checks written to your partner if you want to negate any possible suggestion that you have been supporting him or her, which is an issue that can arise in a post-break-up "palimony" lawsuit.

DO remember that a never-married parent has the same child support obligations as a once-married parent.

THE DON'Ts

DON'T commingle your money by opening joint accounts, incurring joint debts, or making joint purchases if you want to avoid legal complications and the possibility of a "palimony" suit for support of your partner after a split.

DON'T allow your partner to hold title to major purchases in his or her name alone if you are both paying for that property, even if he or she orally agrees that the house or car belongs to both of you. The deed or title is more convincing evidence than one partner's allegation of a spoken promise.

DON'T co-sign or guarantee debts that are incurred by your partner unless you intend to be equally responsible for paying them back, even if you should split up.

DON'T become so financially dependent on your partner that you limit your ability to support yourself in the future. Whereas divorced spouses may have the legal obligation to support each other, especially if one gave up a career to take care of the home and children, the same is not true of former cohabitants. Either keep up your skills and contacts in the job market, or consider a written agreement setting forth your partner's legal obligation to help support you if the relationship ends.

DON'T hold yourselves out to the public as husband and wife, allow yourselves to be known as or referred to as "Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so," or use the same last name, even casually, if you want to avoid the legal complications of a "palimony" suit or the potential for common-law-marriage status should the relationship end.
Source: family.findlaw.com/marriage/living-together/cohabitation-dos-donts.html

Sample Cohabitation Agreement


DISCLAIMER: The following form is provided for informational purposes only and is intended to be used as a guide prior to consultation with an attorney familiar with your specific legal situation. menstuff.org is not engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice, and this form is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. If you require legal advice, you should seek the services of an attorney.

________________________________________, Cohabitant No. 1, and ____________________________________, Cohabitant No. 2, hereinafter jointly referred to as the Cohabitants, who now live /will live together in the future (circle one) at __________________________, in the city of __________________, county of ________________, state of ______________, hereby agree on this _____ day of ______________, in the year ______, as follows:

 

The Cohabitants wish to establish their respective rights and responsibilities regarding each other's income and property and the income and property that may be acquired, either separately or together, during the period of cohabitation.

The Cohabitants have made a full and complete disclosure to each other of all of their financial assets and liabilities.

Except as otherwise provided below, the Cohabitants waive the following rights:

To share in each other's estates upon their death.

To "palimony" or other forms of support or maintenance, both temporary and permanent.

To share in the increase in value during the period of cohabitation of the separate property of the parties.

To share in the pension, profit sharing, or other retirement accounts of the other.

To the division of the separate property of the parties, whether currently held or hereafter acquired.

To any other claims based on the period of cohabitation of the parties.

To claim the existence of a common-law marriage.

[SET FORTH RELEVANT EXCEPTIONS HERE. For instance, if both cohabitants are contributing to the debt repayment on the home owned by one party, they may agree that any increase in equity during the period of cohabitation will be fairly divided between them.]

The Cohabitants agree to divide the household expenses as follows:

Monthly Expenses

Cohabitant No. 1
Cohabitant No. 2

Rent or Mortgage

$

$

Utilities

.

.

Telephone

$

$

Gas

$

$

Electricity

$

$

Water & Sewer

$

$

Garbage Collection

$

$

Cable Television

$

$

Cellular Phone

$

$

Internet Service

$

$

Property Taxes

$

$

Insurance:

.

.

Homeowners/Renters

$

$

Auto(s)

$

$

Recreational Vehicle

$

$

Debt Payments:

.

.

Vehicle #1

$

$

Vehicle #2

$

$

Home Equity Loan

$

$

Other Loans

$

$

Credit Card #1

$

$

Credit Card #2

$

$

Credit Card #3

$

$

Day Care

$

$

Transportation Expense

.

.

Gasoline

$

$

Parking/Commuting

$

$

Vehicle Maintenance

$

$

Licenses

$

$

Food:

.

.

Groceries

$

$

Take-out Food

$

$

Restaurants

$

$

School Lunches

$

$

Household Expenses:

.

.

Cleaning Supplies

$

$

Cleaning Service

$

$

Yard Maintenance

$

$

Home Maintenance

$

$

Home Security

$

$

Home Improvements

$

$

Home Furnishings

$

$

Appliances

$

$

Personal Expenses:

.

.

Entertainment

$

$

Travel

$

$

Gifts

$

$

Hobbies

$

$

Babysitting

$

$

Pet-care Costs

$

$

Donations

$

$

Other Expenses

$

$

Total Expenses

$

$

[ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS HERE. These can cover just about any issue, from custody of pets to allocating household chores. The legal obligation to pay child support to any children of the Cohabitants cannot, however, be modified by agreement of the parties.]

Each Cohabitant is represented by separate and independent legal counsel of his or her own choosing.

The Cohabitants have separate income and assets to independently provide for their own respective financial needs.

This agreement constitutes the entire agreement of the parties and may be modified only in a writing executed by both Cohabitants.

In the event it is determined that a provision of this agreement is invalid because it is contrary to applicable law, that provision is deemed separable from the rest of the agreement, such that the remainder of the agreement remains valid and enforceable.

This agreement is made in accordance with the laws of the state of _________________, and any dispute regarding its enforcement will be resolved by reference to the laws of that state.

This agreement will become null and void upon the legal marriage of the Cohabitants.

I HAVE READ THE ABOVE AGREEMENT, I HAVE TAKEN TIME TO CONSIDER ITS IMPLICATIONS, I FULLY UNDERSTAND ITS CONTENTS, I AGREE TO ITS TERMS, AND I VOLUNTARILY SUBMIT TO ITS EXECUTION.

____________________________________

Cohabitant No. 1 ______________________________

Cohabitant No. 2 ______________________________

Witnessed by: ____________________________________

(Witness or counsel signature) ______________________________

(Witness or counsel signature) ______________________________

[NOTARY PUBLIC MAY AFFIX STAMP HERE]

Source: family.findlaw.com/marriage/living-together/le18_6_1.html

 

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