Home>Personal Family>

Cohabitation Agreement

Free Cohabitation Agreement

Utilize our Cohabitation Agreement to specify the obligations of an unmarried couple cohabiting together.

A Cohabitation Agreement, also known as a “Common Law Partner Agreement,” is a crucial legal document for unmarried couples choosing to live together without the formalities of marriage. In this guide, we'll delve into the intricacies of Cohabitation Agreements, exploring their purpose, when to use them, legal rights for couples living together, and the consequences of not having one in place.

Table of Contents

What Is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement, also referred to as a living together agreement, serves as a written contract for unmarried couples living together. This document outlines property rights and financial obligations during the course of the relationship and post-relationship termination. It covers:

  1. Disposition of pre-relationship property upon unexpected death.
  2. Division of jointly owned property if the couple separates.
  3. Agreement on sharing living expenses and other financial expectations.

This agreement plays a vital role in managing day-to-day finances, including rent, mortgage, and bill payments. It also facilitates the equitable distribution of property, encompassing personal items, savings, and other assets, in the event of a breakup.

Alternate Names for Cohabitation Agreement:
  • Common Law Partnership Agreement
  • Cohabitation Agreement for Unmarried Partners
  • No-Nuptial Agreement
  • Couples Contract
  • Relationship Contract

What’s the Difference Between Cohabitation and Marriage?

Refer to the table below to quickly see how cohabitation agreements and marriage differ from each other.

Cohabitation Agreement Marriage
No requirements. Anyone can create a cohabitation agreement Numerous requirements which can vary depending on your state, e.g. marriage license, age minimums, a ceremony, officiator, witnesses, etc,
Can be terminated informally but can have the same emotional cost as the end of a marriage. Requires the involvement of the court, e.g. legal separation, divorce and can be of great financial and emotional cost.
Can divide property if outlined in the agreement but requires legal workarounds to have the same property protections as a marriage Has stronger legal protections in place for the division of property
Partners can only get financial support if outlined in the agreement Spouses have a legal right to alimony
Only the relative of an ill or incompetent partner has the authority to make financial or health decisions on their behalf Spouses have the authority to make legal decisions for each other if one falls ill or incompetent
Partners have no inheritance rights unless specified in the deceased's partner's will Spouses have a legal right to inherit a deceased spouse's property
The father in a cohabiting relationship may have to prove their paternity through blood tests and legal methods A father in a marriage has paternity rights by default
There is no legal obligation for the father in a relationship to support children during cohabitation, but it becomes a requirement when paternity has been proven The father is legally obligated to support children during the marriage
The non-custodial parent is not required to support the children if the cohabiting relationship ends unless paternity has been proven Non-custodial parents is legally obligated to support children if the marriage ends

When To Get a Cohabitation Agreement?

Cohabitation Agreements are essential when couples explicitly choose not to marry, aiming to define their rights and obligations outside the scope of common law marriage. While common law marriage is recognized in some states, a Cohabitation Agreement is particularly relevant in the majority of states that don't grant legal status to cohabitating couples.

In states allowing informal or common-law marriages, such as Alabama, Colorado, and Texas, a Cohabitation Agreement becomes a tool to explicitly define the rights and obligations of partners who opt not to formalize their relationship through marriage.

Using a living together agreement is advisable when partners anticipate a long-term cohabitation without the intention of marriage. It provides a framework for deciding on separate and joint property, establishing rules for property and income division.

Legal Rights for Couples Living Together

Despite similarities with marriage, Cohabitation Agreements do not afford the same legal protections. Understanding the legal rights for unmarried couples living together is crucial.

Property Rights:
  • Clearly defining separate and joint property.
  • Specifying the division of joint property during cohabitation and in the event of a breakup.
  • Utilizing property settlement agreements for detailed division.
Financial Rights:
  • Outlining financial rights and responsibilities in the agreement.
  • Defining how financial assets, including income and expenses, will be distributed.
  • Listing the partner as a beneficiary on relevant financial assets for inheritance rights.

Consequences of Not Using a Cohabitation Agreement

Failure to establish a Cohabitation Agreement can lead to significant disadvantages, especially in joint purchases. Without this legal safeguard:

Debt Responsibility: Both partners may be liable for each other's debts, including rent, utility payments, and personal debts.

Inheritance Issues: Living together does not grant automatic inheritance rights; without an agreement, the court may decide based on wills or blood relatives.

How To Write a Cohabitation Agreement

Step 1 – Fill in the information of both parties

The first step in writing a cohabitation agreement is filling in the parties’ information. This includes writing down their:

  • Names
  • The address the parties are currently living in or intend to live in
  • Date of writing the agreement
  • Governing state

An example of where to include information about the parties involved in a cohabitation agreement

An example of where to include information about the parties involved in a cohabitation agreement

Step 2 – Include the current circumstances.

This section typically refers to whether any children from previous relationships are involved. You should specify if there aren’t any kids. If there are, you need to write down their names and ages.

You should also clearly outline the obligations of each parent to their children. Unless a court order of adoption is obtained, the agreement assumes each person is responsible only for their children.

An example of where to include the current circumstances in a cohabitation agreement

An example of where to include the current circumstances in a cohabitation agreement

Step 3 – Establish an effective date

Discuss with a partner and decide when the cohabitation agreement will come into effect.

An example of where to include the effective date in a cohabitation agreement

An example of where to include the effective date in a cohabitation agreement

Step 4 – Provide information regarding the property

You can list the property you acquired before becoming a couple that should be treated as separate property – including financial assets, household goods, vehicles, and other items.

Any property listed as “separate” in the Cohabitation Agreement will not be divided with the other person if death or separation occurs.

Your shared property, or joint property, is a property that both parties jointly own. These will be divided between both parties upon death or separation. Both parties can agree upon how this property will be divided before signing the agreement.

An example of where to include information about property details in a cohabitation agreement

An example of where to include information about property details in a cohabitation agreement

Step 5 – Include any information about debts (optional)

Although not required, listing your debts lets you clearly detail who is responsible for which debts.

Without a Cohabitation Agreement, you could be forced to assume your partner’s debts if you split up.

For example, in California, domestic partners are legally considered financially responsible for the debt of the other during the relationship and at its end, just like spouses. That means you could be on the hook for outstanding rent, utility payments, and debts related to your partner’s household goods and personal items.

You should also specify any shared debts you andy, our partner have. Typically, shared debt occurs due to a joint purchase secured by a joint loan for items like a vehicle or home.

cohabitation-agreement-template-debts-details

An example of where to include information about debts in a cohabitation agreement (part two)

An example of where to include information about debts in a cohabitation agreement (part two)

Step 6 – Specify household contributions

Shared living expenses can be divided, with each party paying different percentages or dollar amounts, depending on the situation. You can also include information about whether joint accounts will be used and the ownership interests of purchases made through that joint account.

An example of where to include information about household contributions in a cohabitation agreement

An example of where to include information about household contributions in a cohabitation agreement

Step 7 – Include termination terms

You should provide terms about how the agreement can be terminated.

An example of where to include information about termination details in a cohabitation agreement

An example of where to include information about termination details in a cohabitation agreement

Step 8 – Sign the agreement

Once you have filled in the other sections, both parties should sign the agreement so it becomes a legally binding contract.

An example of where to include information about signatures in a cohabitation agreement

An example of where to include information about signatures in a cohabitation agreement

What your Cohabitation Agreement Should Include

A simple agreement should generally have at least the following:

  • Who are two people living together and entering into the agreement
  • What the agreement covers, including how bills and other expenses will be split, lists of joint and separate property, and how property will be divided if the relationship ends
  • Where is the agreement being executed, and which state laws apply
  • When the deal takes effect, either when both move in or at the time of signing
  • Why specific properties should be considered separate or jointly owned
  • How the parties want to divide and dispose of any property in the future.

In addition to these, the cohabitation agreement should mention the following terms:

  • Effective Date: when does the agreement take effect
  • Full Disclosure: you must agree that, before signing the agreement, you both had the opportunity to examine your partner’s financial situation, including net worth, assets, holdings, income, and liabilities
  • Independent Legal Advice: the courts will only uphold the agreement if you both had the opportunity to consult with qualified legal counsel before signing the agreement
  • Agreement on Payment of Expenses: before moving in together, decide how to split expenses when living together. This can include rent, mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, and other regular costs.
  • Lists of Separate and Joint Property: this is where you define in the agreement to keep property separate. List property you acquired before becoming a couple and want to keep as separate property—including financial assets, household goods, vehicles, and other items. Similarly, list property owned jointly with your partner as joint property, which will be divided between you upon death or separation.
  • Effect of Separation or Death: any property listed as “separate” in the living together agreement generally will not be shared with the other person if death or separation occurs. In contrast, any property listed as “joint” will be shared with the other person. If you want your partner to have inheritance rights, you should clarify this wish in a will.
  • Effect of Marriage: spells out whether the agreement continues in effect, ends upon marriage, or will be revised before the wedding.

A Cohabitation Agreement is a valuable tool for unmarried couples choosing cohabitation. It provides clarity on property and financial matters, protecting the interests of both parties. Understanding the legal landscape for couples living together is essential for making informed decisions and ensuring a harmonious cohabitation experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do unmarried couples need a Cohabitation Agreement?

Unmarried couples may lack the legal protections afforded to married couples. A Cohabitation Agreement provides a framework for defining rights and obligations, offering clarity on property and financial matters.

Can a Cohabitation Agreement be used in states with common law marriages?

Yes, even in states recognizing common law marriages, a Cohabitation Agreement is valuable. It allows couples to explicitly define their rights and obligations, providing legal clarity beyond the common law marriage framework.

Are financial rights covered in a Cohabitation Agreement?

Yes, a Cohabitation Agreement can include provisions about how financial assets, including income and expenses, will be distributed between partners. It helps in avoiding disputes over financial matters.

What it is like to have a cohabitation agreement in Washington state?

In Washington State, a cohabitation agreement is a legal document that can be used by unmarried couples living together. The purpose of such an agreement is to outline the rights, responsibilities, and expectations of each partner during the cohabitation and in the event of a separation. Here are some aspects to consider:

  1. Property Rights: A cohabitation agreement can address how property and assets acquired during the relationship will be divided if the couple separates. Washington is a community property state, so without a written agreement, property acquired during the relationship may be considered community property and subject to equal division.
  2. Financial Responsibilities: The agreement can specify each partner's financial responsibilities during the cohabitation, including how expenses are shared and managed.
  3. Children and Parenting: If the couple has children, the agreement can address issues related to custody, visitation, and financial support. It's important to note that decisions related to child custody and support are subject to court approval and are typically based on the best interests of the child.
  4. Debt Responsibilities: The agreement can outline how debts incurred during the relationship will be handled in the event of a separation.
  5. Dispute Resolution: Including provisions for dispute resolution mechanisms, such as mediation or arbitration, can help resolve conflicts without resorting to litigation.

What is the process to make a cohabitation agreement in Texas?

Creating a cohabitation agreement in Texas involves several steps. While it's recommended to consult with a family law attorney to ensure the document meets legal requirements and addresses your specific needs, here is a general guide on how to proceed:

  1. Discuss and Outline Terms:
    • Sit down with your partner and openly discuss your expectations, responsibilities, and rights during the cohabitation and in the event of a separation. Consider financial matters, property division, support, and any other relevant issues.
  2. Identify Assets and Debts:
    • List all the assets and debts each partner brings into the relationship. This includes real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and any liabilities.
  3. Draft the Agreement:
    • While you can find templates online, it's crucial to tailor the cohabitation agreement to your specific situation. Address the terms discussed in your conversations and be as detailed as possible. You may want to cover property division, financial responsibilities, dispute resolution, and any other relevant matters.
  4. Seek Legal Advice:
    • Each partner should consult with their own family law attorney to review the drafted agreement. This ensures that both parties fully understand the terms and that the document is legally sound.

Cohabitation Agreement Sample

Loading PDF…

Page 1 of

Related Family Matters Contracts
  • Parenting Plan : Utilize our Parenting Plan template to establish clear and comprehensive parenting arrangements for your children following a separation.
  • Child Support Modification : Use our child support modification form to update a child support agreement.
  • Prenuptial Agreement : Use our Prenuptial Agreement to detail how your wealth and belongings will be treated if your marriage ends.
Loading PDF…