Couples can have any reason for living together. In some cases, couples live together as a starting point for getting married later. In other cases, though, couples simply aren’t interested in the legal commitment of marriage. When couples choose cohabitation in lieu of marriage, they give up a number of rights and protections that married couples enjoy under state and U.S. law. You may feel that your partner is part of the family, but the law doesn't necessarily agree. Fortu...nately, a written cohabitation agreement can give unmarried couples some of the same rights that married couples have.

Marriage is a legal contract that formally commits a couple to state laws that govern what happens if a spouse dies or if the couple divorces. Unmarried couples have fewer rights than married couples, as they do not automatically agree to a legal contractual relationship under state law. A couple may enter into joint obligations, however, like a lease or mortgage. The lack of a binding contract also makes it easier for unmarried couples to break up, and significant conflict can result if a couple has purchased property together or owns joint assets.

Cohabitation agreements are legal documents that protect the rights of unmarried couples while protecting individual assets and financial interests. In many ways, cohabitation agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements, because they spell out each person’s responsibilities in the relationship. Both Washington and Idaho law view cohabitation agreements in the same way they view business contracts: If it’s in writing, it’s enforceable.

If you’re living with a partner or considering moving in together, it’s important to have a sound cohabitation agreement in place. A written agreement is critical if a rift develops in the relationship or if one partner dies, leaving the other partner with no protection under the law. A cohabitation agreement also protects you if you are providing financial support to your partner. And if you’re a dependent partner who has agreed to give up your career to take care of a home or children, it’s vital to have an agreement regarding compensation and support spelled out in writing.

In a long-term, committed relationship in which you’re living with a partner, a cohabitation agreement protects your legal interests regarding money and property. To ensure that you are fully protected, contact us at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment to see how we can help.