Beware of "Cohabitation Divorce!"
As social and ethical goalposts continue to move, more and more couples are choosing to live together as opposed to marrying. In the US and Europe, not only are fewer people getting married, the ones who are marrying are pushing their wedding dates back and scaling back their nuptials. With the removal of the taboo of living and raising children outside the bonds of marriage, increasing numbers of people are choosing not to tie the knot in favor of cohabitation. While marriages continue to ramp down, relationship failures are continuing at a steady pace. An unintended consequence of this has been a rise in the number of legal disputes between unmarried couples who have previously lived together.
It is important to remember that not being married does not automatically ensure there will be no litigation upon dissolution of a romantic relationship. Even without the legal contract of marriage, being in a long term live-in relationship can lead to any number of legal situations, such as asset division and property disputes. Should children be involved; perhaps one cohabitation partner decides to stop working to focus on homemaking full time, for instance, this can move such cases out of the realm of civil law and into that of family law. There may be unspoken expectations of financial support at the end of a long relationship.
Considering a cohabitation agreement may be advisable if one or both persons are coming into the arrangement with substantial funds or assets, or if there is an expectation of a certain amount of time and labor devoted by one partner. Consultation with an attorney will help clarify some of the unique tax rules that may apply to unmarried couples that might or might not be applicable to a traditional married household. There should also be attention paid to matters regarding trusts and estates, as these could affect the tax profiles of both cohabitants. Specificity is critical, so it is important to be sure and discuss all cohabitation expectations with one’s potential partner in advance. Doing so can save one a world of heartache and aggravation in the long run.
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