When people discuss cohabitation, they often focus on young couples who have moved in together as a step before marriage or similar couples who think marriage is unnecessary. However, there is a new demographic now entering into cohabiting relationships with more and more frequency: senior citizens. In fact, according to U.S. Census data reported by The Washington Times, the number of cohabiting seniors has nearly doubled from 2000 to 2008, rising from 1.2 million to 2.2 million.
There are a variety of reasons that seniors choose to live together without opting to enter into a formal marriage. Some seniors who have already lost spouses do not want to replace them, but are still looking for companionship. Cohabitation strikes a balance between those two factors. Other seniors simply do not see the need to formalize their new relationships so late in life. Formal marriages between seniors can also cause problems with social security, pensions, estate planning, and debts from medical care. Still, there is a way for seniors who are living together to legally organize their affairs and their relationship without dealing with a full marriage. These seniors can enter into cohabitation agreements.
Cohabitation Agreements Explained
Cohabitation agreements are contracts that lay down the rights and responsibilities of the two people who are in the relationship. In some senses, this is very similar to a marriage, which also functions as a legally binding contract. However, these cohabitation agreements are much more limited. For instance, provisions of cohabitation agreements that relate to children or child custody will not be enforced. Instead, cohabitation agreements focus on how to deal with the end of a relationship and divide up the property in the event that the relationship ends. In this way, these sorts of contracts function much like a prenuptial agreement would during a divorce.
The Benefits of Cohabitation Agreements
Cohabitation agreements are a low-key way to ensure that winding down a relationship occurs as easily as possible, regardless of whether it is the result of a simple parting of the ways or the untimely death of one of the participants. Cohabitating couples often acquire property together in much the same way that married couples do, but they do so without the safeguards that come along with a marriage contract, with no default rules that allow for a division of that property. The use of a cohabitation agreement allows both members of a relationship to set their own rules for division ahead of time, so that they, or their family members, are not stuck figuring out what to do with property that the couple acquired together.
If you are a senior and are currently living with a romantic partner, contact a DuPage County family law attorney
with any questions you may have about cohabitation agreements. Our experienced attorneys can help you better understand your options.