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Wheaton family law attorneysThese days, it is not uncommon for couples to live together without getting married. Depending on the circumstances, they may not be ready for the long-term legal commitment of marriage. Some romantic partners may also want to “test the waters” to see how they get along under the same roof before legalizing their union. However, there are legal steps a couple can take to protect their rights in case they break up. Similar to a prenuptial agreement, a cohabitation agreement is a contract that can outline how specific issues will be handled similar to when a married couple gets a divorce.   

Who Needs a Cohabitation Agreement? 

“Common law” marriages are not legally recognized in the state of Illinois. This means that an unmarried couple is not entitled to the same rights as their married counterparts. When these couples buy property, vehicles, and furniture together, it can become a complex task to divide these assets in the event of a breakup. 

Although it would be nice, no one knows what the future holds. A couple may live together blissfully for many years, but then find they have grown apart or one act of infidelity causes one partner to leave. Those who might  benefit from drafting a prenuptial agreement as a way of protecting themselves and their interests or investments include but are not limited to:  

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Wheaton cohabitation agreement attorneysMany people might be apprehensive about getting married if their parents were divorced while others simply might not care about signing a marriage license. Therefore, many of today’s couples choose to live together or “cohabitate” without entering into a legal union. In 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that unmarried couples do not have any legal rights to each other’s property if they separate. The end of a long-term relationship can be contentious, regardless if the couple had children together or not. Deciding who gets what when they split can be complicated, especially if the couple acquired a significant amount of property or assets during the relationship. This is why some couples consider drafting a cohabitation agreement.

What Does the Agreement Protect?

A cohabitation agreement can be drafted before or after two people decide to live together. This type of document typically addresses such issues as:

  • Each party’s contribution to household expenses;
  • Division of property in the case of a breakup;
  • Payment of mutual debts;
  • Health insurance coverage; and
  • Parental responsibilities if children are involved.

A cohabitation agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement in some ways. It is basically a contract between two consenting adults that addresses how to commingle their finances and distribute their assets if the relationship ends. This can prevent conflict in the future, especially if they cannot agree on how to divide the property or debt fairly. Property can include a house, furniture, artwork, vehicles, and more. It is important to know that a cohabitation agreement cannot order child support or parenting time. Those issues must be determined by a court.

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