What Are the Benefits of a Cohabitation Agreement?
Throughout history, the typical family dynamic included a husband, wife, and children living in a home together. However, in 2022, blended families have become normalized and accepted into mainstream culture. It used to be standard for a man and woman to marry, have children, and live together. Today, many families live together and share finances, property, and children without being legally married. There are legal protections for unmarried couples living together to ensure their rights are protected. One way partners can protect these rights is through a cohabitation agreement.
Who Can Obtain a Cohabitation Agreement?
Cohabitation agreements are legally recognized documents that outline the rights of unmarried couples living together. These couples include unmarried partners who are in a long-term, intimate relationship. In many states, these relationships are known as common-law marriages. The National Conference of State Legislatures defines common law marriage as a marriage acknowledged by the state without the partners obtaining a legitimate marriage license. Common-law marriages are only accepted in a handful of American states, and Illinois is not one of the states that approve common-law marriages. This is why it is essential for unmarried, long-term partners who share property and finances to create a cohabitation agreement to protect their assets.
What Rights are Protected in a Cohabitation Agreement?
Like in a marriage, long-term couples who live together accumulate shared property such as a home, financial assets, and pets. Many times, these couples also share children. Without a cohabitation agreement, couples who break up have no legal way to fight for an equitable property division. Unmarried couples who share many assets should create a cohabitation agreement to protect:
- Household property, including furniture, the shared home, or pets
- Financial assets such as retirement plans, mortgages, car payments, or shared debt
- Division of shared bank accounts
- Child care needs and custody
- Division of expenses each spouse is expected to maintain
- How to make healthcare decisions for each partner
- How to maintain financial support for each partner
During a divorce, the court will help determine the division of assets in a way that preserves equality between spouses. The state will maintain the best interests of both spouses. However, during a separation with an unmarried couple, these legal protections do not exist without a cohabitation agreement. For example, if an unmarried couple separates, there is no real way for the court to determine ownership. It is between the partners to decide who gets what.
Speak to a Geneva Family Law Attorney
Suppose you are in an unmarried relationship and living with your partner. In that case, it is in both of your best interests to create a cohabitation agreement to protect individual and shared rights. At The Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick & Associates, our Geneva family lawyers have experience working with couples to draft and solidify an agreement to protect each partner’s interests in the relationship. For skilled legal advice on your next steps, please contact our office by calling 630-232-9700.