Cohabitation Agreements for Unmarried Couples

There is an old saying: Marriage isn't for everyone. Yet many couples live together, buy and sell property together, and go about their lives together as if they enjoyed the protection of New York Family Law in case their relationship should ever break down. Unfortunately, New York does not provide any clear cut guidelines with regards to the rights of cohabiting, but not married couples.

If you're in a close relationship without any concrete plans for marriage, we suggest that you consider having a cohabitation agreement negotiated and drafted by an experienced family law attorney.

The following are some of the situations in which it makes sense for unmarried people to consider a written agreement to define their rights and responsibilities in the event of a breakup in their relationship:

  • Cohabitation with or without the parties having a joint bank account
  • Real estate purchased or held in one person's name for some reason, for example, because of the other's bad credit
  • The couple is engaged in business affairs together
  • One person pays most of the household expenses
  • One person is supporting the other through undergraduate, graduate or professional school

New York state law is generally silent as to the resolution of competing interests or claims if your current relationship should terminate for any reason. Rather, it is up to you and your partner to define what's fair in dividing the assets and indebtedness you've accumulated while living together. A cohabitation agreement will be interpreted and enforced according to the ordinary rules of New York contract law. Just about any arrangement that the two of you agree upon will be valid, provided they reflect the free and informed agreement of the parties and contain no illegal terms. A classic example of an illegal cohabitation agreement would be one based solely on payment to one party for his or her rendering sexual services to the other party.

Gay or lesbian couples, business partners on intimate terms, and older couples with prior marriages who do not wish to lose their valuable Social Security benefits may frequently benefit from entering into a cohabitation agreement.

We can help you think through the details of your current situation and express the terms of your agreement in clear and unambiguous contractual language.