It was not too long ago when living together as a couple before marriage was viewed as taboo. TV shows like I Love Lucy portrayed married couples and the comedic pitfalls they faced when sharing a home together. Back then, women were often told cautionary tales of men not wanting to buy the cow when milk was being given away for free. However, nowadays it is actually quite prevalent for dating couples to live together prior to getting married. In fact, approximately 48 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 55 years old shared a home with their significant other before getting married during 2006-2010. With the increasing amount of couples sharing homes, finances and even pets together prior to marriage, entering into a cohabitation agreement has also become more common.
What is a Cohabitation Agreement?
A cohabitation agreement is a premarital agreement that establishes the ownership of certain assets, specifies living arrangements and addresses other legal issues in the event that the couple splits up. Basically, a well-drafted cohabitation agreement defines each partner’s property rights and protects the assets of each partner. When a married couple decides to divorce, pertinent divorce law outlines each spouse’s rights. However when a couple who lives together splits up, there is no law to protect each partner. Therefore, a cohabitation agreement can make it so that a couple can refer to a mutually agreed upon contract to determine how certain shared assets should be divided.
Although a cohabitation agreement can provide a couple with specified terms of their living arrangements, a cohabitation agreement that establishes rights regarding children will be invalid. This is because courts always refer to the best interests of the child when determining parenting and custody rights.
What Type of Information is Included in a Cohabitation Agreement?
Although each cohabitation agreement is unique and may touch on a variety of topics, typically they include the following information:
· Who owns each asset;
· How assets, personal belongings and property will be divided in the event the relationship ends;
· How bank accounts will be maintained;
· How joint purchases will be maintained;
· How much each partner will contribute to rent, mortgage or bills; and
· How day to day finances will be managed.
A cohabitation agreement, like any other legal document, is legally enforceable as long as the agreement is signed by both partners and witnessed. It is highly recommended that both partners receive independent legal advice before signing a cohabitation agreement. The main purpose of having a lawyer review the agreement is to ensure that neither party can later claim that they were in duress or at an unfair advantage when signing the agreement.
Consult a Charleston Family Law Attorney
If you are currently living with a loved one and are contemplating drafting a cohabitation agreement in South Carolina, contact one of the family law attorneys at Ayers Family Law, LLC today. We will fight for your legal rights and make sure that your assets are well protected. Call us today for a free consultation.