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Cohabitation Agreement

What Is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a contract between two unmarried people who live together in a romantic relationship. It is a legal document that discusses personal and financial issues and what happens if the two separate. You can personalize these contracts for yourself and your partner, and the agreement can be broad or very specific.

Who Needs a Cohabitation Agreement?

Cohabitation agreements are not for all couples, nor are they for everyone who lives with another person. These agreements are for couples who accumulate money, property and debt together. They function to protect both partners in the case of an emergency or a break-up. If you are in a relationship with someone but it is not long term, or if the two of you do not share finances, this probably is not a necessary document for you.

If you need a cohabitation agreement, contact a lawyer who can help you craft one.

Functions of a Cohabitation Agreement

Cohabitation agreements provide similar protections and rights that exist for married couples. Unmarried couples may enter a cohabitation agreement through written or oral contracts that cover issues such as properties accumulated during the agreement.

Unmarried couples can also create an implied contract through their actions and relationship. In these cases, the court needs to determine if the couple established an implied contract.

Cohabitation agreements outline what happens with acquired properties, wealth and debt in the case of a break-up. The cohabitation contract should state how to split equity and debt between the two partners and what happens with any co-owned properties.

Basic Requirements of a Cohabitation Agreement

Cohabitation laws and requirements can differ depending on the state, so you must consult with a local attorney experienced with such legal matters. Here are the basic requirements that apply to all states:


For a contract to be “enforceable,” there must be an exchange between the two agreeing parties, and the exchange must be of value to both parties. For example, a cohabitation agreement can state that one party pays for living expenses in exchange for companionship. Consideration requirements can differ from state to state, making it essential to complete a cohabitation agreement with an attorney in your geographic location.

Fair and Freely Entered

Both parties must enter the contract freely, without pressure from another person. For legal enforcement to apply, partners must both show the court they entered the contract under their own free will.

Both partners must also prove they signed the contract while fully knowing and understanding the contract’s contents. For example, if Partner A lies about debts and gets Partner B to sign a cohabitation agreement, it would be invalid because Partner B did not know the full scope of Partner A’s debt.

Written Contracts Are Not Required

It is highly recommended that you write and sign a cohabitation agreement because it is easiest to enforce. However, the court may also accept oral agreements and implied contracts if parties can sufficiently prove such agreements and contracts.

What to Include in a Cohabitation Agreement

Cohabitation agreements look different for different couples, depending on what they need to address. You can utilize a free cohabitation agreement template online to get started, but make sure you consult with an attorney while creating your agreement. To connect with a lawyer near you that understands cohabitation laws, simply complete the form on our website or call us at (866) 345-6784.

Here is a rundown of what you should consider including in your cohabitation agreement:

Property Accumulated During the Relationship

If you and your partner buy property together, whether it is a house, car or some other big purchase, you need to address what happens to it if you separate.

For example, if one person puts a full down payment on a house, does she or he own it outright, or will you split the property value 50/50? If you both pay for a car, do you co-own it? These are all essential considerations when crafting an agreement.

Property Acquired Through Gifts or Inheritance

If one person received a significant gift or inheritance, it makes sense that he or she wants to retain ownership of it. It is important to state that outright in the agreement to avoid complications in the event of a separation.

Property From Before the Relationship

If you and your partner want to keep the property you owned before the relationship, you must both state that in the contract. Otherwise, disputes and confusion can arise later on.

Shared Expenses 

You and your partner pay rent/mortgage payments, car payments, home expenses and much more. How do you split these expenses? Is it an even 50/50 split, or does income determine the split? Is one person paying for these expenses in exchange for something else?

This area can lead to a lot of conflicts, even if you are not getting separated. Make sure you outline exactly how to pay shared expenses.

Dispute Resolution

Couples should include a dispute resolution strategy in the cohabitation agreement. This outlines how you both settle a dispute should one arise. For example, you could use a mediator or an attorney to help settle any issues.

Separation or Death of a Partner

In case you separate or one partner dies, you both must outline what happens to property, debts and money. So there is no confusion in the future, be sure to clearly define this with a legal advocate’s insight and experience.

Contact a Lawyer Near You

Do you and your partner need to create a cohabitation agreement? If so, do yourselves a favor and consult with an attorney who can help you create one that includes all the necessary information. An attorney can also ensure both parties have a full understanding of the agreement and can assist in filing it with the court.

Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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