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Do you need a cohabitation agreement with your partner?

These days, it is very common for couples to live together for some time before deciding whether or not to marry. While many people see this time as a risk-free trial to decide if marriage is right for them or not, it is much less risk-free than they might think. If you and your partner are living together or talking about moving in, you need to understand some of the risks this can present and the ways that you can protect each other from them.

The primary problems that long-term cohabitation can present involve accumulating property together and using individual incomes for joint expenses. If you're like most couples, the longer you live together, the blurrier the lines that separate who owns what can get. If you remain together indefinitely, this is not really an issue (although you may face some additional estate planning difficulties), but if you break up, you could be in for a very frustrating experience attempting to fairly divide property accumulated over months or years as a couple.

One way to protect yourself from this kind of conflict is through a cohabitation agreement, which is similar to a prenuptial agreement, but certainly not the same thing. In this agreement, you can lay out who owns what property and how you plan to split any assets such as savings or investments if you split up. This particularly useful when it comes to larger purchases, such as a house.

Also, it is important to note that a cohabitation agreement specifically applies to you and your partner outside of marriage, and will not carry on if you choose to marry.

In order for a cohabitation agreement to be effective, it is crucial that you consult with an experienced family law attorney who can help you create a proper agreement that has the possibility of standing up in court. However, it is important to understand that cohabitation agreements are generally less binding than prenuptial agreements, in much the same way that cohabitation is less legally binding than marriage.

Source: Findlaw, "Validity of Living Together Contracts," accessed July 07, 2017

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