Couples based in Illinois often decide to live together before, or instead of, getting married. There are many reasons for this, and each couple’s circumstances are unique. Regardless of why a couple decides not to get married, living together for a long period of time presents challenges that are commonly dealt with by married couples or couples in civil unions. However, couples who are legally bound together have certain protections provided to them by law while couples who are only living together generally do not.
That is why many couples choose to create a cohabitation agreement. Cohabitation agreements are legally binding and address issues regarding property rights, including how individual and shared assets will be handled if the couple breaks up. Although everybody has high hopes when they move in with their partner, the truth is that not all relationships last forever. A cohabitation agreement created now protects both partners in the future.
What Can a Cohabitation Agreement Do?
Illinois does not recognize common-law marriages, so no matter how long someone lives with their partner, they are not afforded the same rights as married spouses. While married spouses can enshrine certain financial protections in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, unmarried spouses will need to create a cohabitation agreement to obtain similar protections. Cohabitation agreements often include:
- Personal responsibilities during the relationship - Many relationship experts agree that keeping a relationship running smoothly is similar to running a business. When partners have clearly defined responsibilities - like who will handle household repairs, who will manage joint bank accounts, and who will take care of paying the bills - the relationship is more likely to succeed.
- Financial responsibilities during the relationship - When an unmarried couple lives together and jointly owns assets like a home or a vehicle, a cohabitation agreement can specify which partner is obligated to pay for certain expenses. If one partner makes substantially more money than the other, an agreement can stipulate that the higher-earning partner will always pay a portion of a mortgage payment commensurate with their income relative to the partner who earns less.
- Financial arrangements in the event of a breakup - If a couple decides to end their relationship, a cohabitation agreement can preemptively determine who gets what. Cars, property, and even pet ownership can be addressed. A partner who owned personal property before the relationship can maintain exclusive ownership if the couple breaks up. Having an agreement written beforehand, when both partners are committed to each other’s wellbeing, can save a couple from serious conflict later down the road.
Is a Cohabitation Agreement Legally Binding?
Cohabitation agreements are legally binding provided they are properly executed and both partners have been truthful about their finances, but there are certain issues they cannot address. No contract between two people can legally address issues of sex. A cohabitation agreement also cannot address issues unrelated to children, such as child support or parenting time, which can only be determined with the approval of an Illinois court.
Work with a DuPage County Family Law Attorney
If you have a long-term partner and want to live together without getting married, a cohabitation agreement could protect your interests. A Wheaton, IL cohabitation agreement lawyer with Cores Family Law Group can help you plan and draft a document that meets your needs. Schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced attorneys and find out what we can do for you. Call us today at 630-871-1002.