While sociologists and relationship experts may debate the root causes, there is little question that more and more couples are delaying marriage in favor of a cohabitation arrangement. In some cases, couples are giving up on marriage entirely. For many couples, moving in together is seen as a first step or a “trial” marriage without the legal commitment; for others, it is a much more permanent situation, with a wedding in the “sometime in the future,” if ever, category. But, what happens when a cohabitating couple breaks up? In some cases, a “divorce” can be even more painful and financially devastating for those who never even got married.
Avoid the Unspoken Understandings
When you move in with your romantic partner, the two of you may have laid out some of your expectations for your relationship. Too often, however, things get left out and go unaddressed for years. For example, you may assume that your partner will automatically take over your personal effects in the event of your death. Without taking action, such may not actually be the case. Similarly, you may be living solely on your partner’s income. If you were to split, would he or she help you financially until you could get back on your feet?
Write It Down
You may have chosen a cohabitation arrangement, at least in part, to avoid the legal entanglements of marriage. It is wise, though, to develop a cohabitation agreement that lays out your rights and responsibilities both during the relationship and in case of a split. Your cohabitation agreement could include provisions for dividing property, financial support (similar to spousal maintenance), and estate planning concerns. A written agreement can provide significant protection for you and your partner, and prevent ongoing litigation in the future.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to draft a cohabitation agreement is the uncertainty of the courts when dealing with unmarried couples. Unlike a marriage and divorce situation—which are governed by very clear laws in Illinois—a cohabitation arrangement is not, and, therefore, would be left entirely to the discretion of the court. With a written agreement, however, you and your partner can avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.
At Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., our team of legal professionals understands that every case is unique and deserving of our personal attention. If you are considering moving in with your partner, an experienced Kane County family law attorney can help you draft a cohabitation agreement that will protect you both. Call 630-377-7770 to schedule your free initial consultation today.