How to ‘Divorce’ When You Are Not Married: Cohabitation Agreements

In today’s society, millions of couples have chosen to live together in a committed union in lieu of marriage. So the question begs, “How do you divorce when you are not formally married?”  The answer? A cohabitation agreement.

New Jersey Laws on Cohabitation

Similar to settlement agreements during a divorce or prenuptial agreements prior to marriage, a cohabitation agreement is the written plan between two committed individuals which stipulates how shared assets and/or inheritance taxes will be distributed equally among the parties in the event the relationship ends.  Because cohabitating couples remain unprotected by New Jersey divorce laws, the lack of a cohabitation agreement between the parties often ends in a bitter legal battle.  Preparing a cohabitation agreement prior to engaging in this type of relationship will ensure both parties receive fair and equitable distribution of property.

What Does An Agreement Do For You?

Cohabitation agreements are legally binding contracts.  For this reason, it is vital that you speak with a New Jersey family law attorney who fully understands the complexities and legalities of drawing up a cohabitation agreement.  Not only can the cohabitation agreement address issues concerning shared assets, but it may also delineate the couple’s intentions, legal rights, beneficiary arrangements, medical decisions and more.  Utilizing the services of legal counsel will ensure your cohabitation agreement is legally sound in New Jersey courts, as well as a reflection of your personal committed relationship and desires.

To ensure your New Jersey cohabitation agreement can be enforced, it must include these fundamental elements:

  • Your cohabitation agreement should clearly delineate the purpose for the agreement, the duration of the contract, specific identifying information of each partner, as well as how revisions to the agreement will be executed.
  • Your cohabitation agreement should clearly define the property and assets of each partner prior to cohabitation, as well as any shared assets.  It should further address how the assets will be distributed in the event of death or dissolution of the relationship.
  • Your cohabitation agreement should define the financial arrangement of the relationship, including roles and responsibilities of each partner.  This should include arrangements for how income and expenses will be handled, as well as post-relationship support.
  • Your cohabitation agreement should include a Last Will & Testament in the event that one partner should pass away.  It should also indicate the decision-making authority each partner will have, such as in cases of medical emergencies.

Remember, in the eyes of New Jersey’s courts, you are not protected by New Jersey divorce laws without a cohabitation agreement.  Seeking legal counsel for any questions or concerns regarding cohabitation relationships is the first step to ensuring you are protected. Contact our office today to learn more and protect your rights in New Jersey.