What is a California Cohabitation Agreement?
A cohabitation agreement is a binding contract for parties who live together, are romantically involved, and are not married. A California cohabitation agreement will address personal and financial issues a couple may encounter after a breakup or death or either party. A cohabitation agreement is governed by contract law, not the Family Code. As such, any disputes over a cohabitation agreement will be heard in state civil court instead of the family court.
Many cohabiting couples live like married couples by sharing expenses, having or raising children together, or combining their income to buy food, personal property and real estate. However happy you may be, you must know that there is no common law marriage in California. These unmarried couples are not entitled to each other’s property unless they create a cohabitation agreement that stipulates such an arrangement. The experienced family lawyers at Johnson Attorneys Group in Orange County can create one that protects you and your assets.
A California cohabitation agreement protects both partners from potential financial ruin and unnecessary conflict if there is a breakup. It’s particularly important if one or both partners have high-net-worth, multiple real estate holdings, or valuable assets.
When to Create a Cohabitation Agreement
Just like a prenuptial agreement, a cohabitation agreement or “partnership agreement” is a legally-binding contract that sets out specific terms agreed upon between the partners to protect assets, set expectations, validate sacrifices and reduce financial exposure. It will clarify obligations and expectations so that the couple may separate without any confusion.
Some examples might include the following:
- Allocating income and expenses between partners: Who pays the bills? Are wages separate? Are responsibilities equal?
- How will property acquired before the relationship be allocated? Will property obtained during the relationship such as stocks, vehicles, debts, retirement plans, mortgage, property become joint or remain separate?
- If children are adopted or are born using alternate reproductive strategies will both partners be legal parents?
- Does the couple want to provide post-breakup support or “palimony” (support paid to an unmarried partner)?
- One partner is raising the children and sacrificing their career to support the other’s career or business. If the relationship ends, will this person be entitled to financial assistance or educational support?
- If the parties buy a home during the relationship, are both parties going to have a financial interest in it or is this separate property?
- If and when one of the partners dies, does the other partner have a claim to any inheritance?
Timing is Everything
Ideally, a cohabitation agreement is established prior to a couple living together, but if the partners are just testing the waters it may be best to wait to see if you are compatible.
When it is determined that the relationship may be a long-term one, a cohabitation agreement can help establish expectations and ensure that both partners are happy and protected if things later don’t work out. While it may not be very romantic to suggest you and your partner create a cohabitation agreement, it may help provide assurance that you are both on the same page.
The best time to establish one is when you trust and love each other to avoid problems in the future.
Contact Us for Help Drafting Your California Cohabitation Agreement
Johnson Attorneys Group is an Orange County Family Law firm with significant experience in these types of legal contracts. We can help draft your California cohabitation agreement and ensure that it gives you and your partner the assurance you need. We also help with a number of other family law issues including postnuptial and prenuptial agreements, and more. Call (949) 942-8784 to request a private consultation with a cohabitation agreement lawyer today.