Couples are increasingly deciding the best way to avoid divorce is to not get married in the first place. Can you blame them? With divorce rates consistently hovering at 41% in the U.S., who would want to get married if you have a 1-in-2 chance of divorcing? Even if you are not married, things can still go bad and these couples decide to break-up. Some couples are finding they is still plenty to untangle from years of living together: purchasing a house, life insurance policies, investing, building joint savings and having kids.
A ‘Living Together Agreement’ or also called a ‘Cohabitation Agreement’ helps define on paper how these things are fairly distributed and managed once a couple has split. As you can imagine these definitions protect their rights as a couple, while at the same time safeguarding their individual interests and assets.
It defines terms for a division of assets whether the assets were earned, given/inherited or purchased prior or during to the relationship, division of assets upon death (if a will is not in place), powers of attorney and health care initiatives (ex. case of one partner becoming incapacitated), as well as support, custody, or visitation rights for minor children.
There are standard contracts out there and legal services to help you draft the right agreement for you and your loved one. Keep in mind they run the spectrum of being very comprehensive, covering every aspect of your relationship, or it can be specific, covering only one transaction, for example purchasing a new house. These contracts certainly do not need to be belabored. You can, and should, design your contract to say exactly what you both want, in words you both understand. But like most legal things, there is nuance as to what and how the terms are enforceable. If the best fit for you and your partner is a more detailed agreement with a fair amount of terms and definitions, consider legal counsel/guidance.
A good example is when it comes to making decisions in the best interest of a minor/child. A couple may provide detail on support, custody, or visitation rights for minor children, although the court can disagree with this and decide differently based on what’s in the best interests of the children. Generally speaking, it’s often in the child’s best interests to maintain a close and loving relationship with both parents, but the practicalities of promoting and maintaining such relationships can be the main challenge in resolving a child custody dispute. All of this is weighed by the court and should be top of mind when drafting this section of any agreement.
Ultimately, a cohabitation agreement is an important exercise for any unmarried couple in a committed relationship, especially with kids. State and federal laws are predominately designed to provide clear rights to legally married couples when one dies, becomes incapacitated or otherwise uncouples. In most cases, these ‘Living Together Agreements’ provide a critical safeguard to ensure they’re safeguarding their individual interests and assets are protected and they have the control to help determine joint custody terms in case of a breakup.
If legal issues arise with kids in the mix, you can expect two cases -one for the division of assets in civil court, one in domestic or family court to address child custody. If you are considering a breakup or recently experienced a separation with kids consider downloading coParenter to help you and your co-parent to act in the best interest of your child, keeping them out of the middle of issues. We provide on-demand issue resolution with trained professionals right at your fingertips.