When you decide to live with someone, it is important to think about the issues that may come up if you decide to end your relationship. In the District of Columbia, when you live with someone, your relationship can become a common law marriage and you can be considered legally married, even if you do not intend to enter into a marriage. A Cohabitation Agreement can specifically state that you do not intend that your relationship be considered a marriage with all the rights that go along with a marriage, such as support, etc. In addition, you may own property separately or purchase property together with your partner and if you decide that your living situation is not working out, this can lead to disputes that can be difficult and costly to settle.
A Cohabitation Agreement or a Living Together Agreement is a contract that sets guidelines for how your property will be divided if you separate. It defines your rights as a couple. It can also expressly state that you have no intention of marrying or if you decide to marry that you will sign a Prenuptial Agreement or just void your Cohabitation Agreement. A Cohabitation Agreement can protect your separate property and income and can protect you from your partner’s debts.
A Cohabitation Agreement can also deal with the basics of how you will manage your household, for example, who will pay which bills, whether you will have a joint bank account, how much you will each contribute to monthly household expenses, etc.You may own a home with your partner or are thinking about jointly purchasing a home. It is essential that you have a Cohabitation Agreement that addresses what will happen if you split up. Some of the questions that can be addressed in a Cohabitation Agreement are: who will keep the home; who will be responsible for paying the mortgage or monthly rental payments; who will keep the funds in a joint bank account; what happens if one of you dies; etc.
It is a good idea to speak with a family law attorney if you are contemplating living with your partner. A Cohabitation Agreement can ease your concerns about how to protect your separate property, separate income and investments, and how to divide your furnishings and other property in the event your relationship does not work out. It is important that it be property drafted by an attorney so it is legally binding.