Cohabitation Agreements

If you are enjoying a close and loving relationship with no desire for marriage, you may want to consider getting in touch with a New York cohabitation lawyer at Douglas Family Law Group. Marriage is not for everyone. Some people prefer to remain in their close relationships living together, buying and selling property, and going about their lives together. In New York, unmarried couples are not afforded the same rights and protections as their married counterparts should they decide to end the relationship, thanks to New York State Family Law.


Often, business partners dating each other, LGBTQ couples, and older couples with marriages in their past stand to benefit from a cohabitation agreement that suits their specific circumstances. If for any reason your relationship brakes down, state law will have no say in the resolution of competing claims or interests. Defining what’s fair by dividing the accumulated assets and debt is up to you. 


It is important to note that according to New York Law, a cohabitation agreement will not be effective to relieve either you or your partner of child support obligations.




What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

Recently, the number of unmarried couples living together has been on the rise. When unmarried couples share living quarters, they do not enjoy the same rights and protections as married couples. Consequently, when non-married couples break up for whatever reason, the ensuing disputes over finances adn property can be costly and complicated.


Cohabitation agreements can help avoid these situations. A cohabitation agreement is a non-marital agreement that protects the rights of unmarried partners who desire to share living quarters. This legal document ensures financial security financial security for both parties and lays out each partner’s obligations.


Cohabitation agreements cover:

  • Debt and property of each partner before moving in together
  • How much each party will contribute towards common bills like rent, utilities, etc.
  • How common property will be divided in the event of separation
  • If there will be maintenance payments in the event of separation
  • How to deal with joint debt if the couple goes separate ways.


Cohabitation agreements are a viable option for bother heterosexual and same-sex couples looking to protect their interests when sharing a living space with their partner. These non-marital agreements allow for easy division of property and obligations in the event of separation or death.




How do Cohabitation Agreements Work?

Cohabitation agreements are legal documents that offer unmarried couples similar protections to married couples. These agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements in that they cover the property and obligations each party had before they started living together. But, while prenuptial agreements are for married couples, cohabitation agreements provide contractual rights to couples who do not intend to get married under New York laws.


Naturally, when two people start to cohabitate, they will comingle obligations and finances. This can include utilities, lease payments, mortgage payments, car payments, and groceries. Without a marriage or legal contract, both party’s interests are not protected.


In the event of separation, a couple must resolve how they will pay for outstanding debt and/or a lease agreement. A cohabitation agreement offers a way to avoid disputes by settling such issues before they materialize.


It is recommendable to consult a cohabitation attorney prior to finalizing any formal cohabitation agreement. This is because an attorney will ensure your rights are protected and that the contract is valid and follows New York’s legal regulations.




Contents of a Cohabitation Agreement

Cohabitation agreements can be tailored to suit each party’s needs and protect them and their property. 


Property and Debts

  • Previously owned property: Each party can identify the property they came with into the relationship including furniture, cars, bank accounts, or even real estate.
  •  Property acquired together: A couple will likely acquire property in the form of furniture, appliances, joint bank accounts, etc. while living together. A cohabitation agreement can decide who gets to keep what property in the event of separation.
  • Previously incurred debt: The agreement should state if either party had a debt before moving in together.
  • Debts acquired together: The cohabitation agreement should establish who will be responsible for any debt the couple will incure together in the event of a separation.



Rent/Mortgage Payments

If the house the couple is living in is owned by either party, they should determine whose name will be on the deed and who is responsible for the mortgage payment. If the couple is renting, they can decide whether only one or both names will go on the lease.


The couple can also decide who will keep living in the house or apartment in the event of a separation.



Utilities, Bills, and Expenses

A cohabitation agreement can detail who is responsible for each bill the couple will incur while living together, such as water bills, electric and cable bills, groceries, insurance, etc.




In the event an unmarried couple has children together, they can agree to custody and visitation rights in their cohabitation agreement prior to the dissolution of the partnership. 




Unmarried couples who have pets together may want to know that the law views pets as property. Therefore, a cohabitation agreement can establish who will have custody of any pets acquired prior to or during the relationship. 



Who Needs a Cohabitation Agreement?

While not all couples require a cohabitation agreement, you may need to execute this type of agreement in the following scenarios:

  • You are living with your partner
  • Either party had a significant amount of debt or property before moving in together
  • You plan on amassing a significant amount of debt or property with your partner while cohabitating, (i.e. student loans)
  • You want to live together but plan on never getting marries.




What happens to a Cohabitation Agreement After Marriage?

If you and your partner get married after having an existing cohabitation agreement, your agreement is no longer in effect. In order to continue the same protections and control over the division of assets provided in the cohabitation agreement, you will need to draft a prenuptial agreement.




Why You Need a Cohabitation Agreement Lawyer

Cohabitation agreements are protected in New York under New York contract law. This means that the agreement is enforceable and legally binding. It imposes a legal duty on each partner to stick to the terms of the agreement. Failure to uphold your duties can result in legal consequences, such as your partner taking you to court to have the court enforce the agreement.


To get the best results possible, it is critical that an experienced cohabitation agreement lawyer reviews all proposed cohabitation agreements prior to signing.


If you are sharing living quarters with your romantic partner but you are not married, you may want to ensure your rights are protected by signing legal papers. Not only will signing the right paperwork help you feel protected as a couple but it will also protect your rights in the event you decide to go separate ways. Ensure you include all the appropriate clauses that suit your situation in the agreement and that it is valid and enforceable under New York Law by speaking with one of our experienced cohabitation agreement attorneys.


Call us today at 914.615.9058 to set up your initial consultation.




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White Plains, New York


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