Boston Cohabitation Lawyer
In the last decade, cohabitation has expanded and is now generally accepted to mean two partners who live together and share their property.
Many times it is a starting-point of sorts for a couple planning to get married. But it can also be an alternative for couples that don’t want the commitment that marriage brings.
However, when couples choose cohabitation, they give up certain rights and protections that married couples enjoy. Even though you may feel that your partner is part of the family, the law does not.
In Massachusetts, unmarried couples can obtain some of the same rights that married couples have by having a cohabitation agreement prepared.
A cohabitation agreement is very much like an unmarried version of a prenuptial agreement because it outlines the relationship and each person’s responsibilities. Massachusetts Courts look on these agreements the same way they look at a business contract – if it’s in writing, it is enforceable.
Although cohabitation agreements are predominantly used by gay couples in Massachusetts, heterosexual couples are increasingly taking advantage of these agreements – particularly those that have been living together for some time.
Couples have many reasons for living together without getting legally married. In some cases, cohabitation serves as a starting point for couples who later marry. In other cases, though, couples simply aren’t interested in the legal commitment of marriage.
When couples choose cohabitation in lieu of marriage, they give up a number of rights and protections that married couples enjoy under Massachusetts and U.S. law. You may feel that your partner is part of the family, but the law does not agree.
Fortunately, in Massachusetts, a written cohabitation agreement can give unmarried couples some of the same rights that married couples have.
What Is a Cohabitation Agreement?
Marriage is a legal contract, and formally tying the knot commits a couple to state laws that govern what happens if a spouse dies or if the couple divorces.
Unmarried couples have fewer rights than married couples, as they do not automatically agree to a legal contractual relationship under state law. A couple may enter into joint obligations, however, such as a lease or mortgage.
The lack of a binding contract also makes it easier for unmarried couples to split up, and significant conflict can result if a couple has purchased property together or holds joint assets.
Cohabitation agreements are legal documents that protect the rights of unmarried couples while protecting individual assets and financial interests. In many ways, cohabitation agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements, because they spell out each person’s responsibilities in the relationship.
Massachusetts law views cohabitation agreements in the same way it views business contracts: If it’s in writing, it’s enforceable. In the past, cohabitation agreements have been used primarily by gay couples, but heterosexual couples — especially those who have lived together for an extended period — are beginning to make use of the documents as well.
Elements of a Cohabitation Agreement
The information in a cohabitation agreement — sometimes referred to as a “living together contract” — can vary widely depending on the assets and needs of the couple. However, such agreements typically do not spell out personal components of the relationship or household duties, such as who is responsible for cooking and cleaning. In most cases, agreements that cover issues not related to finances are unlikely to be enforced by the courts.
A cohabitation agreement should be as specific as possible with regard to property and finances, stating what will be shared — and in what proportions. A cohabitation agreement typically covers:
- All money and property each member of the couple had before moving in together.
- Money and property earned or purchased during the relationship.
- Property inherited or received as a gift during the relationship.
- Amounts and types of all expenses, including utilities and housing costs.
- How property will be handled if the couple separates or if one member of the couple passes away.
- How any disputes will be resolved, such as through mediation.
Why Should You Work with a Cohabitation Lawyer?
If you’re living with a partner or considering moving in together, it’s important to have a legally sound cohabitation agreement in place. A written agreement is critical if a rift develops in the relationship or if one partner dies, leaving the other partner with no protection under the law.
A cohabitation agreement also protects you if you are providing financial support to your partner. And if you’re a dependent partner who has agreed to give up your career to take care of a home or children, it’s vital to have an agreement regarding compensation and support spelled out in writing.
In a long-term, serious relationship in which you’re living with a partner, a cohabitation agreement protects your legal interests regarding money and property. To ensure that you are fully protected, work with an experienced Massachusetts cohabitation lawyer. Contact Infinity Law Group at (855) 941-0909 for a free consultation.