Cohabitation contracts now a family law option in California
A bride walking down the aisle to join her soon-to-be husband at the altar is a romantic vision that many Californians have. For some individuals, though, getting married nowadays is far less attractive because of the divorce rate and the financial challenges of having a child. For these reasons, more and more people are deciding to live together without getting married.
The Census Bureau estimates that more than eight million people were cohabiting in the United States in 2013. This figure is a significant increase over the five million unmarried couples in 2006. In one case, a woman and her boyfriend had chosen to cohabit instead of marry. The couple has a child together and started to cohabit three years ago. Before they did, however, the woman demanded that they sign a cohabitation agreement that clearly laid out how the couple would divide household expenses and what would happen to their house if the relationship ends — she keeps it, and he must move out in two weeks.
In family law, a cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract that provides asset protection to both parties. The agreement specifies how any assets acquired during the relationship will be divided between the two individuals if and when they break up. One expert on these arrangements observed that they prevent couples from arguing over each other’s assets. A cohabitation agreement can also benefit a partner who opts to stay at home to care for a child, providing financial security just like spousal support does.
In California, the end of a relationship can be messy and complicated, particularly if considerable assets and properties are at stake. Therefore, people need to take steps to protect their rights in case of a break up or divorce.
Source: The New York Times, “All the Conventional Cohabitation, but No Nuptials,” Tatiana Boncompagni, July 3, 2014