What Should an Effective Cohabitation Agreement Between Unmarried Couples Contain?

  •   |   Meghan Freed
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Prenups aren’t just for married couples. Unmarried couples can get in on the legal action with a contract of their own, called a “cohabitation agreement.” While it may seem like an unromantic document to some, it can be an excellent estate planning tool and an excellent way to resolve disputes down the road. Make sure you include these elements in your cohabitation agreement to make sure it’s as effective and beneficial as possible.

Read on to learn more.

Joint and Separate Property

One of the main perks of a cohabitation agreement is property division. The document allows you to indicate how you will own specific property, from your car to your home to your bank accounts. For example, do you own your house exclusively, or do you share ownership with your partner? Is it a 50/50 split, or is ownership split in a different way? Your agreement allows you to get as specific as you want, including how your property will be divided following a breakup.

Read: What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

Management of Finances and Debts

In addition to your property, your cohabitation agreement should specify who will be liable for your debts. Unmarried couples aren’t legally responsible for each other’s debts except in specific circumstances, like when one of you cosigns for the other. The agreement also lets you assign rules for the management of your bank accounts, credit cards, insurance policies, and other financial accounts. Finally, you may want to outline how you will both share your income and expenses, if at all.


Unmarried couples typically don’t have the legal right to inherit separate property from one another, except in special scenarios, like when one partner leaves property in a will or trust. Your cohabitation agreement can also include a clause about gifts, inheritance, and life insurance, if you believe these inclusions will benefit you both.

Support Payments

Support is just another one of the rights that unmarried couples don’t receive—unless they agree to it in a cohabitation agreement. Will one of you need financial support (akin to alimony in a divorce) after a theoretical breakup? If one of you feels strongly about support payments in the event of a breakup, you should discuss it together and include your decision in the agreement.

Dispute Resolution

Your cohabitation agreement should absolutely include your agreed-upon method for resolving legal disputes. For instance, if one of you breaches the agreement, how will you resolve the conflict? Will you follow a specific system in the event of a breakup? You might include an arbitration clause wherein you both agree to settle your dispute outside of court (like in mediation or arbitration), saving the both of you plenty of time and energy.

When you work with a knowledgeable family law team, you can create a cohabitation agreement that is perfectly tailored to your needs and the needs of your partner. Get in touch with our firm to start planning for your future. We will help you pave the way for a smooth and happy life with your partner.

Next Steps

Issues facing unmarried couples are complicated.  If you are in a long term relationship and do not plan to marry, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.

Our first step at Freed Marcroft, the Goals & Planning Conference, is designed to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your true goals for your life. Once we discover your goals at the Goals and Planning Conference, we are able to take our collective experience with family law, strategy, courts, judges, and other lawyers, and build an approach customized for you.

Schedule your Goals & Planning Conference today, or contact us either here or by phone.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC