Considering living together? Consider a Cohabitation Agreement.
A recent report published by the National Marriage Project finds that children are now more likely to have unmarried cohabitating parents than divorced parents. This finding is consistent with growing findings that more and more couples in the U.S. are cohabitating rather than marrying.
This presents an interesting challenge when a couple ends their relationship. When a relationship ends in divorce, there are numerous state laws that guide a couple and the court on what a fair and equitable division of property should look like. With a cohabitating couple, there is no similar guidebook and as a result, there is often little protection or guarantee of a “fair” result.
Cohabitating couples in Indiana must use common law as interpreted by our appellate courts to deal with the same underlying relationship-based issues. While there are legal remedies for dividing shared property and sorting through a couple’s finances, there is no set law or standard and Indiana public policy favors marriage and our laws reflect that preference. The growing trend toward more and more cohabitating couples may force our policymakers to address the changing needs of many Hoosiers.
Until that happens, a cohabitation agreement may help protect and guarantee a happier resolution when a relationship ends as a result of a separation or death. A cohabitation agreement seeks to avoid court and the messy uncertainty of a non-legally recognized relationship. Such an agreement can provide both parties with better certainty and clarity - by defining, in advance, how property and other rights will be allocated between the parties, in the event their relationship subsequently ends. A cohabitation agreement is a contract and is generally enforced by Indiana courts for same-sex couples and those of opposite sex (heterosexual), as it relates to assets and liabilities.
A cohabitation agreement can be used to ensure that, when a relationship ends by death or a break up that property rights are determined according to the parties’ wishes.