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Cohabitation Agreements Protect Couples Who Choose Not to Marry


More couples in the U.S. are choosing to live together rather than marry. In a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the marriage rate of 6% in 2018 marks the lowest rate since 1900.

Partners are delaying marriage in some cases while others are snubbing the traditional altogether. Either way, living with someone often means making purchases together, taking on collective debts, and sharing resources. Some unmarried couples have children. While not a marriage, cohabitating can have many of the same traits.

Similar to a prenuptial agreement, a cohabitation agreement can protect both parties in the event the relationship ends.

What Is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal agreement for an unmarried couple (heterosexual or homosexual) that protects them from some of the costs of litigation should they split. The agreement can also outline how the couple handles daily life while living together. This agreement is intended to bind both parties.

A cohabitation agreement can accomplish the following:

  • Identify Separate and Shared Property
  • Determine How to Handle Debt
  • Divide Responsibility for Household Expenses
  • Allocate Household Chores
  • Create a Co-Parenting Plan for Minor Children
  • Decide Custody of Pets
  • Address Inheritance Issues

These agreements can include just about any provision as long as it does not violate the law or public policy.

Who Needs a Cohabitation Agreement?

Family laws in Rhode Island generally protect married and common-law couples. From intestate succession laws to divorce protections, cohabitating couples are left out without a legally binding cohabitation agreement.

Couples living together in Rhode Island should consider a cohabitation agreement in the following situations:

  • You do not want to get married but still want some of the rights afforded to married couples, such as division of property or child support if the relationship ends.
  • Provides security for one party in the event of the death of the other. Clauses can work in tandem with a will to ensure the partner inherits certain property of the deceased.
  • You have personal property you want to protect or debts you want to remain separate.
  • You want to live together on a trial basis before deciding whether to marry.

A cohabitation agreement allows you to settle certain questions from a calm, less emotional demeanor than would probably happen amid a breakup.

Increasing Relevance of Cohabitation Agreements

The increase in the number of couples who chose to live together underscores the growing importance of cohabitation agreements. Couples are waiting later in life to marry, but they aren’t waiting to live together.

Data from the National Survey of Families and Households and the National Survey of Family Growth show the following:

  • The median age of marriage rose from 22 years old to 26 years old between the 1980s and the late 2000s.
  • The age of cohabitation for that same time period remained steady at about 22 years old.
  • In the 1980s, one-third of marriages were preceded by living together. That percentage increased to nearly three-fourths in the 2000s.

Another study in the Journal of Marriage and Family revealed that while 10% of women born between 1958 and 1962 cohabitated between the ages of 16 and 28, that number more than doubled to 25% for women born between 1978 and 1982. Anecdotal research shows that the number is continuing to go up.

Drafting Thorough Cohabitation Agreements

At McIntyre Tate LLP, our extensive experience can help you design a comprehensive cohabitation agreement that incorporates current and future concerns and issues. We start by getting a full understanding of your individual circumstance, your goals, and what issues mean most to you. These considerations lay the foundation for your agreement.

Discover how a cohabitation agreement can protect you in a free initial consultation. Schedule by calling (401) 351-7700.

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