Many couples eschew the convention of marriage and opt to live together instead, and their numbers are growing. According to the Census Bureau, the number of non-married cohabiting couples in the U.S. rose from five million back in 2006 to over eight million in 2013.
However, like married couples, many share not only a home, but cars, bank accounts, household expenses, assets and maybe children. That’s why some couples who cohabitate are obtaining legal documents called cohabitation agreements, also known as “no-nuptial agreements.” They’re like pre-nuptial agreements, but without the trip to the alter.
The president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says that many people who get these agreements have been divorced. They don’t want to marry anytime soon, but “want the protection a pre-nup would provide.”
Relationship experts disagree on whether “no-nups” are ultimately beneficial or harmful to a couple’s relationship. Some say, as many people do about pre-nups, that it turns the relationship into a business arrangement. Others say the process of drawing up a legal agreement forces a couple to discuss important issues, “spell[ing] out in advance those things that may become problematic.” One California attorney who has drawn up a number of cohabitation agreements admits that the process of drafting the agreement may bring up old arguments about spending habits. However, he believes that “if it is done right, it is a process that can bring the couple together.” Couples of all financial means may benefit from a cohabitation agreement. However, people with great wealth may have the most to lose by not having a legal document spelling out what their partner can and cannot receive after a break-up.
The California attorney says these agreements generally serve one of two purposes: to keep partners from taking each other’s assets if they break up or to provide financial security for the lower-paid person in the relationship after a split. He calls them a “safety net” for those people, particularly those who leave their job to raise children. While cohabitation agreements can stipulate behavioral expectations. Texas couples who are meshing together their lives and money, whether they are planning to marry or not should consider whether a cohabitation agreement is right for them. While it may feel like it is taking some of the romance out of the relationship, it can help prevent an emotionally-painful break-up from being financially painful as well.
Source: The New York Times, "All the Conventional Cohabitation, but No Nuptials," Tatiana Boncompagni, July 3, 2014