The definition of cohabitation has expanded in the last decade but what it essentially means is: two partners who live together and share their property. For a lot of couples, cohabitation is kind of the starting point before they get married. However, it can also be an alternative for partners that don’t really want the commitment that comes with marriage.
But when couples choose to go the cohabitation route, they give up certain rights that spouses enjoy. While the partners may very well “feel” like they are married — the laws are very clear that cohabitants don’t have the same protection as married couples.
Think of the cohabitation agreement as an unmarried version of a prenup since it details the relationship and responsibilities of each partner. The Massachusetts laws treat these agreements the same way they treat a business contract. If the cohabitation agreement is in writing, it is enforceable.
Generally speaking, cohabitation agreements in Massachusetts are mostly used by gay couples, but now more and more heterosexual couples are also taking advantage of it. There is a growing number of partners who live together for years without ever getting married — a cohabitation agreement is a preferred choice for most of them.
If you and your partner are committed to each other, but don’t plan to get married, you might want to sign a cohabitation agreement. It will allow you to give your relationship some of the protections that the law would provide you if you were married. Jay Davis can help draft and review your cohabitation agreement in the Massachusetts area. Call us at 617-221-3548 or contact us online if you have any questions or concerns about cohabitation agreements.
What is a Cohabitation Agreement?
As you may already know, marriage is a legal contract. When a couple formally gets married, they commit to the state laws that govern what happens if the couple divorces or a spouse dies. Now, as mentioned earlier, unmarried couples have fewer rights than married couples since they don’t automatically agree to a legal contractual relationship. However, the couple — even if they are not married — can enter into joint obligations like a mortgage or lease.
And as there is no legally-binding contract, it is very easy for unmarried couples to split up. Cohabitation agreements are legal documents that protect the rights of unmarried partners while protecting their individual financial interests and assets. This is why these agreements are considered so similar to prenuptial agreements — both spell out each partner’s responsibilities in the relationship.
In Massachusetts, if a cohabitation agreement (much like a business contract) is in writing, it is enforceable. If you are not married, unless you have a contract that clearly defines how you want your assets divided in case you break up with your partner, you’ll have a tough time getting what is rightfully yours. Without a cohabitation agreement in place, one partner could end up with an unreasonable/unfair amount of property while the other ends up with nothing. This is most likely to happen if both of you are making mortgage payments on a property that’s only in one partner’s name.
Jay Davis can help you define the nature of your contractual relationship and draft an agreement that is crystal clear so that the Massachusetts court has grounds to enforce the agreement. During his decades of experience, at Davis Law Group, our legal team has created these documents for numerous clients, and they can do the same for you. Call us at 617-221-3548 or contact us online to talk to Jay — free of charge — about having a cohabitation agreement.
What are the Elements of a Cohabitation Agreement?
The details inside this agreement can vary widely based on the needs and assets of the couple. But such agreements usually don’t outline the personal components of the relationship like who is responsible for cleaning and cooking.
Agreements that cover issues not related to finances are highly unlikely to be enforced by the Massachusetts courts. Your cohabitation agreement should be as precise as possible regarding finances, assets, and property. It should be very explicit about what will be shared in what proportions. To give you an idea, your cohabitation agreement will cover:
- All property and money each of you had before you moved in together
- Types and amounts of all expenses, including housing costs and utility bills
- All property and money bought or earned during the course of your relationship
- Any property received as a gift or inherited during the course of your relationship
- How any disputes will be resolved (for example, you can specify that mediation will be used to address and resolve an issue)
- How property will be handled if you separate from your partner, or if one partner passes away
Work With a Reputable Cohabitation Attorney in Massachusetts
If you are considering moving in together with your partner or you’re already living together, having a sound cohabitation agreement drawn up is highly recommended. It is crucial if a conflict develops in the relationship or if one partner expires, leaving the other with no legal protection.
To make sure you are fully protected, contact Jay Davis who is an experienced cohabitation attorney at Davis Law Group in Massachusetts. By establishing your individual and property rights ahead of time, you can prevent complications later. To set up a free, no-obligation consultation with Jay, call us at 617-221-3548 or contact us online.
James H. (Jay) Davis III
Thank you for reading. Need to talk? 617-221-3548