How Does a Cohabitation Agreement Work?

Posted May 23rd, 2024.

Categories: Blog.

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Sometimes people enter relationships that are just as serious as a marriage, whether it be romantic or platonic. They might decide to live together permanently, combine finances, have children, and operate almost exactly the same as a married couple. The difference is that the unmarried couple is not legally bound to each other. With a cohabitation agreement, a pair can establish legal obligations to one another without getting married. Contact an agreements attorney with the law offices of Mark S. Guralnick for more information on a cohabitation agreement.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal agreement between partners who live together but are not married. Whether you are in a romantic relationship and simply do not believe in the institution of marriage or you are in a platonic partnership, a cohabitation agreement can benefit you. It acts as a legally binding contract that outlines financial and other obligations you have to one another as well as settles issues like property ownership and joint financial responsibilities.

Are Cohabitation Agreements Enforceable in NJ?

New Jersey state law recognizes a cohabitation relationship as valid. This means that a signed and notarized cohabitation agreement is enforceable in New Jersey. However, there are certain conditions under which the contract will be considered valid.

The contract must be in writing. No oral or implied agreement is valid.
If financial support was promised in the contract, the party who is responsible for providing the support must have signed the agreement.
All parties must have been advised by their own separate attorneys before signing the contract.

What Issues Should the Contract Address?

While the contents of the contract are left to your discretion, your cohabitation agreement should clarify at least the following issues.

Economic and financial issues: Combining finances can be beneficial but also messy. Clarify if all or a portion of each party’s income is going to be combined. Will they share a bank account or credit card? Are one person’s debts considered joint? Who is responsible for rent or mortgage payments? Who is responsible for other household or various expenses? Is each party expected to contribute 50%? How will joint finances be divided in the event that the relationship ends? Will one party be required to pay support to the other?

Property ownership: Whether it be a sofa, car, or house, outline the details of property ownership. Is property that one person had before the relationship considered separate or is it now jointly owned? Is property acquired by one person during the relationship separate or joint? What about gifts and inheritance? Whose name is on the deed to the house or the lease agreement? If the couple separates how will assets and property be divided?

Custody: The unmarried couple may have children or pets together. If their relationship ends and they decide to separate, who will receive primary custody of the children or animals? How will visitation work? It is important to note that child custody in a cohabitation agreement can be overruled by a court depending on the circumstances.

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