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Living Together

If you and your partner are thinking about moving in together, it's important that you know about the legal consequences of such a decision. Living together, also called cohabitation, can sometimes result in unforeseen legal issues.

This section of FindLaw provides useful information and resources for unmarried couples who live together or are considering cohabitation. Click on any of the links below for more information about laws and legal issues that are related to cohabitation.

Issues that are covered in this section address issues of money, property, lease agreements, and more as they relate to cohabitating couples. Whether a simple cohabitation agreement is the solution or domestic partnership or common law marriage come into play, this section has the resources to help you learn more about laws related to living together.

Living Together: The Big Picture

Cohabitating without being married can be a valuable test for a relationship and may prove to both parties whether or not marriage is a good idea for them. However, this arrangement can also place both parties in unique legal situations. While moving in together lacks the formal legal requirements of marriage, this more relaxed arrangement can also be less regulated when it ends. If or when the relationship ends, couples may face uncertainty that laws won't address in the way that laws do in cases of marriage. This may leave couples in a legal limbo regarding how to divide money, property and how to share children.

Cohabitation and Property

Divorcing spouses have the obligation to divide their property by legally prescribed methods, but at the end of a relationship between unmarried partners that live together the absence of these legal guidelines can create even more conflict as to who gets what. Couples who live together and then split up usually don't incur the same alimony or financial obligation to support each other after the break-up, unless they have entered into a contract specifying otherwise. Therefore, a cohabitating partner who has become accustomed to being supported may face unexpected financial hardship after the split.

Cohabitation and Kids

While children born during a marriage are presumed to be the offspring of the spouses, this presumption doesn't exist for cohabitating couples. However, regardless of how fewer laws weigh in on such circumstances as they relate to unmarried cohabitating couples, either unmarried parent may still initiate paternity actions. Until paternity is established, the father will have no legal rights. Examples of legal rights that are determined by paternity are custody and visitation rights.

Although married couples must financially support children born during the marriage, the male in a cohabitating partnership does not incur an immediate legal obligation to support children born during the cohabitation. However, even after paternity is established the parents still have the same legal obligation to support their children as legally separated or divorced parents do.

Cohabitation Agreements

While it may sound unromantic, creating and signing a cohabitation agreement may help avoid some of the most common legal issues during and after cohabitation. Sometimes referred to as “living together contracts," these agreements can determine financial arrangements, clarify property ownership, and list each party's rights and responsibilities should the cohabitation come to an end.

Cohabitation Legal Help

The issues faced by cohabitating couples can go beyond whether or not a couch will fit in the shared living room. It could indicate who gets the couch should they break up. From cohabitation agreements to child support, an experienced family law attorney can help you responsibly enter and exit any living together situation.

Click on any of the links below to learn more about how living together could legally impact your relationship with your partner.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

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