Sometimes married couples are unable to reconcile and decide to part ways. When this happens, both parties can seek the help of divorce lawyers to divide their joint properties accordingly.
However, for unmarried couples, the situation is quite different. Since they are not married, there is no contractual relationship that can help settle any property rights issues upon separation.
That is the case even if the unmarried couple lives together. The act of living together does not automatically confer any contractual agreement between two people. A living together contract or agreement — also known as a non-marital agreement — helps resolve this.
Why is it necessary?
In an ideal scenario, an unmarried couple splits their properties and possessions equitably when their relationship cannot go further. There is no need to seek legal remedies. In the eyes of the law, this is perfectly fine.
But in some cases, relationships end badly. Disagreements about which person owns this and that asset will abound. One of the parties will eventually opt to go to court to resolve the dispute.
To deliver a fair ruling, courts have to determine what the unmarried couple agreed to during the relationship. Sometimes this isn't easy to do since some couples didn't agree to a specific approach of dividing the properties they acquired jointly.
A living together agreement delineates what each party is entitled to when the relationship ends. Courts recognize the validity of living together agreements between two unmarried partners. These are enforceable contracts that prove immensely helpful in avoiding problems relating to money, property ownership, and childcare expenses.
What should be stated in a living together contract
It's up to the unmarried couple on what to include in a living together contract. It can be comprehensive, or it can be limited to a few aspects of the relationship (e.g., homeownership, child support).
That being said, those that do opt to create this written agreement will prioritize the inclusion of financial and property matters. For example, specific provisions can describe the status of properties that existed before the relationship. Couples can also lay out typical household expenses (e.g., energy bills, groceries) and determine which person is responsible for a particular area.
A crucial part of the contract will detail a specific method to resolve any disputes that can arise later on in the relationship.
It's important to remember that personal aspects of the relationship (e.g., gutter cleaning duties and car maintenance chores) are challenging to enforce in court. That's why most non-monetary issues are usually not included in living together contracts.
Should all unmarried couples enter into a written agreement?
Unless you're in a serious and long-term relationship, you don't need to enter into a written contract with your partner.
But once you and your partner have decided to live together and pool financial resources, a living together agreement may prove useful down the line. Of course, it's always good for any relationship to hurdle through all challenges, but sometimes it just doesn't happen that way.
Ultimately, a written living together agreement can mean the difference between a stressful breakup and an amicable one.