Creating Effective Co-habitation Agreements

Co-habitation Agreements

Family law is ever-changing in the modern age we live in.  Statistics show us that 60-70% of people will live together before marriage, particularly for the age from of people falling between 30-44 years old.  Another striking statistic is that co-habitation is increasingly popular among adults over 75 years old.

According to family law experts Davies & Co Lawyers, co-habitation may be referred to in different ways.  You may have heard phrases such as: Committed Intimate Relationships, Non-Married Heterosexual Couples, Non Traditional Cohabitors, or Meretricious Relationships.

It’s important when considering a co-habitation agreement to understand the different types of agreements and that courts generally treat them like contracts.  You may also have heard of these agreements under other names, such as:  Written Agreements for Support, Written Partnership Agreements, or Non-Marital Agreements. There are generally three types of agreements: Implied, Oral, and Written.  Jurisdictions vary on whether they will recognize oral co-habitation agreements, although many do.  Some will only recognize agreements entered into in writing.  It’s important to understand what the courts in your jurisdiction require.  Some jurisdictions will not recognize an implied cohabitation agreement.

It’s also important to understand what exactly a co-habitation agreement is and what it is not.  From a high level, a co-habitation agreement (whether it is oral, implied, or written) is entered into  between two people (whether or not of the same sex) that live together, enjoy an intimate relationship that involves comingling of their social and economic lives without being married.

Like a prenuptial agreement, the purpose of the co-habitation agreement is to provide the couple some specificity about how certain details of the relationship will be handled during co-habitation and also if the relationship should end.

It is also important to distinguish what a co-habitation agreement is not.  It is not a contract where the consideration given in the contact is sexual services.

Some reasons for entering into a co-habitation agreement might be:  estate planning, to avoid losing benefits for one of the partners, to manage the particulars of a long-term relationship, to avoid the statutory elements of a common law marriage (ie; ensure that the couple does not enter into a common law marriage.)

Here are some important ideas to consider when entering into a co-habitation agreement:  How long do you think the agreement will last?  How have you decided to handle debts and other living expenses, who will contribute and in what amounts?  What if there are children?  Will there be contributions to the other partner’s retirement funds?  If so, if the relationship ends will the parties want reimbursement?  Will any financial support be given if the relationship ends?  If so, how much.   Will end of life decisions be made by the co-habiting partner?  If not, who will?

Co-habitation agreements can be an important and useful tool in a relationship but careful consideration for the concepts covered above is critical before finalizing an agreement.