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Some people have the idea that living together is the same or similar to being married. It's not. It's very different. There are approximately 1500 rights, responsibilities, liabilities, and obligations that attach when people say "I do". That is not the case when people simply live together.
Experts tell us that financial issues are the number one reason relationships end. We encourage people to sit down and talk about what their expectations are - how do they picture the relationship developing. If emotional issues come up - which is normal - bring in a trained psychotherapist or mediator to help address the issues. Since people who live together can buy property together, purchase goods and services, and open joint bank accounts or credit cards, a Cohabitation Agreement is a very good idea and an excellent opportunity to discuss these critical issues. Parties should sit down and decide who's going to own property, how the bills will be paid, and how they will handle bank accounts and credit cards. They can do it together or with the assistance of a trained mediator. Then all of those agreements should be memorialized in a formal Cohabitation Agreement. If your partner is adverse to discussing a Cohabitation Agreement, you might wonder what it is they aren't willing to talk about. People who aren't willing to be open, who aren't willing to talk about their expectations or disclose their agendas, probably aren't ready for a serious relationship.
Although not all Cohabitation Agreements are created equal, a typical Cohabitation Agreement may also establish how the parties wish to define their respective rights and responsibilities regarding each other's income, property, and the income and property that may be acquired, either separately or together, during the period of cohabitation. Cohabitants are encouraged to make a full and complete disclosure to each other of all of their financial assets and liabilities. Many relationships have ended when one party discovered the other had not been honest about their finances. "If one cannot be honest and open about money, can they be honest and open about more sensitive issues?"
A Cohabitation Agreement may also set forth that the Cohabitants wish to waive or establish certain rights regarding "palimony" or other forms of support, sharing in each other's estates upon death, sharing in the increase in value during the period of cohabitation of the separate property of the parties, and/or sharing retirement benefits.
At a more practical day-to-day level, a Cohabitation Agreement can also set forth how household expenses will be divided and it may memorialize other agreements of the cohabitants such as the custody of pets and the allocation of household chores. However, one issue that cannot be addressed in a Cohabitation Agreement is the legal obligation to pay child support to any children of the Cohabitants. Courts always retain jurisdiction over the issue of child custody and support.
If you would like to talk to one of our experienced family law attorneys about a Cohabitation Agreement or any other family law issue, please give us a call at (818) 348-6700. We are here to serve you.