Cohabitation Agreement

General Information

Cohabitation (living together) is increasingly common amongst unmarried couples. Though unmarried, cohabitants may live as married, have a significant emotional attachment to the other party, and may find a breakup to be extremely difficult. Aside from the emotional challenges, putting one’s life back together following such a breakup may be complicated due to property issues not determined in advance.

Unmarried parties in an intimate relationship (often called unmarried cohabitation), even one that exists for a long time or involves a shared residence, do not enjoy the same rights enjoyed by married persons. More specifically, property division and maintenance may not be granted by a court at the end of a cohabiting relationship as they may at the end of a divorce. The property rights for unmarried cohabitants will depend upon who paid for the property, private agreements made between them, and the way the cohabitants handled the property during the relationship (e.g., through titling).

Such a private agreement, often called a cohabitation agreement or sometimes a domestic partner agreement, may be entered into by two people residing together who are unmarried. It can resolve major concerns in advance and minimize the need to involve the court system and incur that heartache and expense.

Purpose/Necessity

Sometimes, those in a serious relationship may choose to not be married or for a variety of reasons cannot be. However, property – real estate, vehicles, furniture, or other items – may be shared by both and there may be an understanding or shared intention as to who would own the property or how it would be divided should the relationship end.

Property acquired by both parties may be divided in accordance with the terms of an express agreement. See Murphy v. Bowen, 756 S.W.2d 149 (Ky. Ct. App. 1988). A cohabitation agreement is such an express agreement that can provide financial security that otherwise would not exist. It may be useful if one party:

  1. Buys property for the use of both parties during the relationship: apartment, appliances, car, etc.
  2. Handles the shared living expenses for both during the relationship: food, utilities, housing, etc.
  3. Works or spends money to improve property whose title is held by the other party
  4. Serves as a homemaker or raises the parties’ child(ren), perhaps after giving up a career, while the other makes an income
  5. Provides money to the other with the expectation that it will be repaid if the relationship abruptly ends
  6. Obtains a loan, line of credit, etc. for the benefit of both but is the sole person listed as debtor in the creditor’s records
  7. Gets a pet that both parties love and take care of during the relationship and would not want to give up should the parties go their separate ways
  8. Etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

Legal Services Offered and Cost

Cohabitation Agreement

Legal fees: $400 flat fee for drafting agreement and up to one hour of discussion time with an attorney in person, on the phone, or through the internet

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