New York Cohabitation Lawyer

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 Group.

Let’s face it, marriage isn’t every couple’s cup of tea. 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.

For this reason, business partners dating each other, LGBTQ couples, and even old couples with prior marriages in their past stand to benefit from a cohabitation agreement that suits their specific circumstances.

If for any reason your relationship breaks 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.

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

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Douglas Family Law Group Attorney for Unmarried Couples in New York

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 Group.

Our seasoned attorneys have the skills and experience to help you negotiate and draft a comprehensive cohabitation agreement. We can help you express the terms of your cohabitation agreement in clear and unambiguous contractual language.

At Douglas Family Law Group, our New York family law attorneys work with heterosexual and same-sex couples to draft legal documents that allow unmarried couples to determine whether they wish to share any assets and debt if the relationship ends.

Get in touch with us today at 914-615-9058 for a consultation with a NY cohabitation lawyer who will take the time to understand your situation and work with you to come up with a cohabitation agreement that works best for you.

What Is a Cohabitation Agreement?

Recently, the number of unmarried couples living together has been on a drastic 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 and property can be costly and complicated.

To avoid such scenarios, unmarried partners have turned to cohabitation agreements.

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 for both parties and lays out each partner’s obligations.

The issues covered in a cohabitation agreement include:

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

Heterosexual and same-sex couples can draft a valid cohabitation agreement and include whatever the parties think is ideal to protect their interests. This non-marital agreement will allow for easy division of property and obligations in the event of separation or death.

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

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 hitched under New York laws.

Naturally, when two people start cohabiting, they will commingle obligations and finances. It could be utilities, a lease agreement, a mortgage, a car payment, or even groceries. If they are not married or do not have a legal contract in place, neither party’s rights or interests are protected.

When a couple decides to part ways and there is an outstanding debt or a standing lease agreement that they incurred together, there’s bound to be a dispute. But, a cohabitation agreement offers provisions to solve such disputes before they materialize.

Before couples sit down to draft agreements,  that stipulate who owns what property and how they would like to divide the assets should they go separate ways, It is recommendable to consult a cohabitation attorney. An attorney will ensure your rights are protected and that the contract is valid and follows New York’s legal regulations.

Cohabitation lawyer in New York concept

Contents of a Cohabitation Agreement

The good thing about a cohabitation agreement is that it can be tailored to suit each party’s needs and protect them and their property. Here are some of the things that can be included in a cohabitation agreement.

Property and Debts

  • Previously owned property: Each party should identify the property they came with to the relationship including furniture, cars, bank accounts, or even real estate.
  • Property acquired together: A couple will acquire property like furniture, appliances, joint bank accounts, etc. while cohabiting. It should be decided who gets to keep what property after 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 incur together should they split.

Rent/Mortgage Payment

If the house the couple is cohabiting in is owned by one party, they should determine whose name will be on the deed and who is responsible for the mortgage payment. If the couple opts to rent, they need to decide whether only one or both names will go on the lease.

House or Rented Space

The couple needs to agree upon who will keep living in the house or rented space they are cohabiting in and who will move out if the pair break up.

Utilities, Bills, and Expenses

A cohabitation agreement can detail who is responsible for each bill the couple will amass together including water bills, electric bills, cable, groceries, and other expenses.


In a scenario where an unmarried couple has a child together, they may decide to share living quarters. They can agree to custody and visitation rights in their cohabitation agreement in the event they part ways.


Unmarried couples who have a pet together may want to know that the law views pets as property. A cohabitation agreement can establish who will have custody of any pets acquired prior to and during the relationship should you separate.

If you are planning to move in together, you may want to address some of these issues. Also, before putting a cohabitation agreement in place, you will each want to get your own attorney.

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 cohabiting.
  • You want to cohabit but plan on never getting married.

If you relate to any of these situations, you may need to consider a cohabitation agreement.

Elderly couples who want to make sure their property is distributed properly upon their demise may also want to put a cohabitation agreement into consideration.

Is My Cohabitation Agreement Valid?

When unmarried couples have disputes over the division of property and obligations, many of them will try to argue that they had an oral agreement. Since there is no evidence, such claims are often impossible to prove. A valid cohabitation agreement needs to include the names and addresses of both partners. Each party has to sign the agreement and have it notarized.

It is also a good idea to involve an experienced cohabitation lawyer to ensure your agreement is drafted within the legal confines.

A young gay couple who need a cohabitation lawyer in New York

What Will Happen If an Unmarried Couple Sharing a Cohabitation Agreement Gets Married?

If you and your partner get married, the cohabitation agreement will no longer be in effect. In this case, you will have to draft a prenuptial agreement to have control over the division of assets in the event of a divorce.

Are Cohabitation Agreements Legally Binding?

In New York, cohabitation agreements are protected 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 keep your end of the bargain can result in legal consequences. Your partner can take you to court if you fail to honor your end of the agreement.

Is Common-Law Marriage Legal in New York?

Common law marriage is an official option in many states, and couples can even enjoy specific benefits of marriage without having to be legally married. But, New York is not one of those states.

No matter how long you have been together, be it over 10 years or several decades, New York does not recognize common law marriage. It doesn’t matter if you have children or use identical surnames, the state of NY will not consider your union as an official relationship status until you legally get married.

However, New York recognizes out-of-state common-law marriages. While New York abolished common law marriage, it still recognizes them from states that validate common law marriage.

How Long Do You Have to Cohabit to Be Common-Law Married in NY?

New York does not grant common-law marriage. Unmarried couples can cohabit for as long as they want but still won’t qualify for a common law marriage in New York. There is no amount of time of living together that will grant you common law marriage.

Do Non-Married Couples Have Rights in New York?

Unmarried couples in NY do not have rights. While this may be discouraging to those who don’t want a traditional marriage, it is important to know that there are other options like domestic partnerships. You only get special relationship rights or privileges in New York by entering a legal marriage or any domestic partnership recognized by law.

Can Unmarried Couples See Their Partners in the Hospital?

If your better half is in the hospital and you are not legally married, the law considers you to be no more than a visitor or a friend. Medics have the right to deny you information or additional access to your partner. But, being in a domestic partnership allows you visitation rights in a hospital.

You will have full medical access to your better half only if you are married.

Why Do I Need a New York Cohabitation Attorney?

Being a legally binding contract, it’s best if an experienced cohabitation attorney drafts and reviews the cohabitation agreement. Also, an attorney can help recover damages if the cohabitation agreement is violated. The laws regulating cohabiting agreements change from state to state. A White Plains cohabitation attorney will help you understand how New York enforces the agreement.

Talk to a New York Cohabitation Lawyer Today!

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.

Before you and your significant other go on to buy property together or make any other joint investments, it is important that you draft a “living together contract,” preferably a cohabitation agreement. Ensure you include all the appropriate clauses that suit your situation in the agreement and that it is valid and enforceable.

Do you need help or counsel drafting a cohabitation agreement in New York? Call us today at 914-615-9058. A White Plains NY cohabitation lawyer from the Douglas Family Law Group will familiarize you with the issues and guide you toward the best possible cohabitation agreement.

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