Cohabitation Agreement FAQ - United States

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A cohabitation agreement is a written agreement that governs the rights and obligations of two people who are in a relationship and live together in a shared residence. A cohabitation agreement can be used to avoid conflict during the relationship or upon its breakdown, by clearly defining property ownership, debt obligations, and support obligations. Furthermore, a cohabitation agreement can help the parties involved avoid court imposed support payments or division of property.

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Contents

General

How does a cohabitation agreement differ from a common law partner agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is different from a common law partner agreement in name only. They are essentially the same document.

What is cohabitation?

Cohabitation occurs when a couple lives together in a consensual relationship without being legally married.

Can same-sex partners use the cohabitation agreement?

Yes. LawDepot’s cohabitation agreement can be used by same-sex partners. Under the “Party Information Section” you can select the gender for each party. Select the appropriate gender for each party to create a cohabitation agreement for a male/female or same-sex relationship.

Must a couple live together for a certain period of time before they can create a cohabitation agreement?

No. There is no minimum amount of time that a couple must live together before creating a cohabitation agreement. In fact, it is often better to create a cohabitation agreement with your partner before you move in together.

Will my cohabitation agreement be accepted by the courts?

Usually courts will respect the agreement reached between the couple. However, courts will occasionally change provisions in the agreement if such provisions are not in the best interests of the children (for instance, provisions relating to custody, access and support payments of children). Also, courts may choose to disregard any provisions that they feel are inequitable under the circumstances.


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Party Information

What is a Referred Name?

A referred name is a name that a party will be referred to as throughout the agreement. In most cases, the referred name will be the party’s given name (i.e. Alexander) or a shortened version (i.e. Alex).


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Property

What is Property?

Property is anything that is owned. Property is often divided into two types: "real property" which is any interest in land or real estate and "personal property" (sometimes referred to as "personalty") which includes everything else. Savings accounts, stocks and bonds, real estate, vehicles, valuable antiques – these are all examples of property.

How can I list property?

There are two ways to list both Separate Property and Shared Property:

  1. Select “Yes, as specified below”. This option allows you to list up to ten items of property per party. This option is convenient if you have not already created a list of property and each party has 10 or fewer items to claim.
  2. Select “Yes, as specified in an attached list” and attach a list of property to your cohabitation agreement. This option is best if you have already created a detailed list of property or if a party has more than 10 items to claim.

How should I list Property?

When listing an item of property, your goal should be to list enough information about the item so that there is no doubt as to which item you are describing. As a general rule, the more information you provide about an item of property, the easier it will be to identify in the future.

The following are suggestions for listing different types of property.

Vehicles Year, Make, Model, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). VIN is optional, but recommended. Example: 2006 Ford F-150 Extended Cab, 111…

Real Estate Property Type of property, address (Street Address, City, State, ZIP). Example: Townhouse, 111 Pine Street, Los Angeles, California, 11111

Accounts, Funds, etc. Type of account, institution, account number. Example: Savings Account, XYZ Bank, 111…

Possessions List enough information so that there will be no questions as to which item you are describing. When listing a collection, name at least the most important items in the collection. If you have an art collection with over 100 pieces, it might be difficult and/or impractical to list them all. However, you should include the description of all pieces that are particularly valuable or meaningful to you.

Examples:

  • Diamond earrings from ABC Jewelers, 0.5 ct.
  • Bedroom furniture, including: king sized bed, king sized mattress, two night tables, and two lamps.
  • Art collection, including: “Sunset”, original painting by Artist X; “Apples”, print by Artist Y; all other paintings, prints, and sculptures.

What is Separate Property?

Separate property is property that will not be divided between the parties in the event of a breakup. In other words, there will be no question as to the legal ownership of the property or whether the other party has any entitlement to it.

What is Shared Property?

Shared property is property that the two parties have either purchased together or have agreed to consider as belonging to both parties.

How should Shared Property be assessed in the event of a separation?

There are many different ways that Shared Property can be assessed in the event of a breakup. LawDepot’s cohabitation agreement allows you to select the two most common ways of assessing Shared Property or create your own.

The two common answers you can select are “Each party will own 50% of the property” and “Ownership will be based on the financial contribution of each party”.

To create your own clause, select “Other” and enter your preferred method for assessing Shared Property in a complete sentence or paragraph. The following is an example of the kind of clause you could create: “Alex will own 80% of the art collection. Mary will own for 20% of the art collection. Each party will own 50% of all other Shared Property.”

What is a Transfer of Property?

A transfer of property occurs when one party gives or sells ownership of a piece of property to another party. LawDepot’s cohabitation agreement includes an optional clause stating that the transfer of present or future property between the two parties must be evidenced in writing. If this clause was selected and Alex wanted to give ownership of his vehicle to Mary, the two would need a written contract as evidence of the transaction. Although this method requires more paperwork, it does provide more protection, as it helps to establish changes in the ownership of property between the parties.


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Debts

What are Debts?

Debts are typically obligations to pay money.

How can I list Debts?

There are two ways to list both Separate Debts and Shared Debts:

  1. Select “Yes, as specified below”. This option allows you to list up to ten items of debt per party. This option is convenient if you have not already created a list of debt and each party has 10 or fewer items to claim.
  2. Select “Yes, as specified in an attached list” and attach a list of debts to your cohabitation agreement. This option is best if you have already created a detailed list of debts or if a party has more than 10 items to claim.

What are Separate Debts?

Separate debts are debts that fall upon the responsibility of one party and thus are not divided in the event of a breakup. Responsibility for the payment of a separate debt will be solely on the party who has either incurred the debt or agreed to take responsibility for the debt.

What are Shared Debts?

Shared Debts are debts that both parties are responsible for. Shared Debts will be divided in the event of a breakup. Responsibility for the repayment of a Shared Debt will fall on both parties, although not always in an equal amount. The amount that each party must contribute to the repayment of a shared debt depends on how shared debts are assessed in the event of a breakup.

How should Shared Debts be assessed in the event of a separation?

There are many different ways that Shared Debts can be assessed in the event of a breakup. LawDepot’s cohabitation agreement allows you to select the two most common ways of assessing debts or create your own.

The two common answers you can select are “Each party will be responsible for 50% of the debt” and “Responsibility will be based on the financial contribution of each party”.

To create your own clause, select “Other” and enter your preferred method for assessing debt in a complete sentence or paragraph. The following is an example of the kind of clause you could create:

“Alex will be responsible for 75% of all Shared Debts related to renovation costs. Mary will be responsible for 25% of all Shared Debts related to renovation costs. Each party will be responsible for 50% of all Shared Debts that are not related to renovation costs.”


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Children

What are Dependent Children?

Dependent children are natural or adopted children that still rely on their parent(s) for financial support. Usually a child is considered a dependent until the age of 18. However, an older child can still be considered a dependent if there are special circumstances.

Support

Can a party be entitled to more than one type of support?

Yes, a party can be entitled to more than one type of support. For example, your cohabitation agreement could provide that, in the event of a divorce, your partner will receive a lump sum payment as well as fixed monthly payments.

What is a Lump Sum Payment?

A lump sum payment is a one-time payment of money, as opposed to a series of recurring payments.


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Additional Clauses

What are Additional Clauses?

The Additional Clauses feature allows you to add your own clauses to cover any issues that LawDepot’s standard cohabitation agreement does not cover. When writing your own clause, be clear and concise, and write it in a complete sentence or paragraph. Avoid creating clauses that do not deal with property or finances. For example, you should avoid including a clause stating that your partner must do the laundry twice a week.


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Signing Details

What is a Notary Public?

A Notary Public is a state-appointed official who is authorized to authenticate certain legal documents, such as declarations, acknowledgments, deeds, mortgages, and other contracts.

What is an Affidavit of Execution?

An Affidavit of Execution is a sworn statement by a witness to the signing of a document in which the witness confirms that the proper execution of that document occurred.

What is a Certificate of Independent Legal Advice?

A certificate of Independent Legal Advice is a document that states that a party has received legal advice on a proposed matter, from an independent lawyer who is not associated with the other party.

Do I need to file my cohabitation agreement anywhere?

No. You do not need to file your cohabitation agreement. However, both you and your partner should keep a copy in a safe, secure place where you will be able to find it.


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