California Attorney for Cohabitation Agreement
When a married couple gets divorced, they can take advantage of California divorce law to decide who gets what property. If the parties want more control over their assets, they can form a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement. However, unmarried couples living together in California cannot take advantage of these same laws. Instead, you can form a cohabitation agreement to help you and your significant other decide what property goes with which party and how to divide shared assets.
Our California attorneys for cohabitation agreements can help you form an agreement with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or other partner when you move in together to help you clarify and protect your property rights in the event of a breakup. To schedule a free legal consultation and learn more about cohabitation agreements in California, contact our law offices today at (805) 643-5555.
Legality of Cohabitation Agreements in California
Cohabitation agreements are essentially agreements that state what happens to property when you and your significant other move in together. Unmarried couples or even roommates could potentially write agreements like this to determine who will take shared items when they move out, how shared costs will be divided, and what property you keep as separate, individual property.
In many ways, these agreements are similar to prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Married couples similarly use these agreements to decide from the outset what will happen to your shared property upon divorce.
Courts and lawmakers were historically hesitant to allow cohabitation agreements. First, they thought that allowing these agreements would encourage people to live together without getting married. Second, courts saw these agreements as using sex as a part of the agreement, whereby the parties would agree to live together and have relations in exchange for keeping certain property. Today, courts are far more mature and understand that these agreements are more about protecting property rights and ensuring fairness.
These agreements typically have full legal effect as long as they are valid contracts. This means that each party must sign freely and willingly. Coercing or forcing someone to sign will usually invalidate these agreements, as will fraud or lies that convince the other person to sign an agreement they would not have otherwise signed. Failing to disclose your full assets and property could also be problematic in one of these agreements.
Dividing Property After a Breakup
Without a legal marriage, the courts do not typically use divorce rules for dividing property. Instead, items are sorted based on sole ownership or joint ownership. Anything that you brought to the relationship as your own property is usually kept after the marriage. Likewise, anything that you purchased together or intentionally shared with your significant other or gave them joint ownership of is divided evenly.
Determining what property is solely owned and what is jointly owned can be difficult, especially if you and your spouse use each other’s things or share everything in the household. While the deed to any shared real estate or the title to any shared vehicles may be able to clearly define who owns those assets, other assets may be less clear.
Signing a cohabitation agreement can clearly define who owns what property and what property is commingled or jointly owned. This can prevent property disputes in the event of a breakup and help you protect important assets, such as family heirlooms, high-value assets, business assets stored in your home, and investments.
Written vs. Verbal Agreements for Cohabitation Contracts
In any case where you are seeking to have two or more people agree to certain terms, it is best to have those terms in writing. Courts may be able to enforce verbal agreements on how you will divide assets when you move in and move out of the same household, but these agreements are much harder to prove. It is far better in nearly every case to have your agreement written by an experienced attorney and signed by both parties. The agreement is typically more secure if both parties are represented by their own lawyers.
In some cases, courts may be able to enforce verbal agreements that were not written down or even “implied agreements.” For example, if you let your boyfriend or girlfriend use your furniture in your shared home and they treat it as their own furniture, it may be implied that you gave them shared ownership in the furniture, and your significant other may be able to request their share of it when you break up. Having an agreement can clear up any doubts and invalidate any potential implied agreements that were not an explicit part of the cohabitation agreement.
Agreements for Alimony After an Unmarried Breakup
Spousal support payments made to your spouse after a divorce are known as “alimony.” Courts often call payments made to support a non-spouse after a break up “palimony.” While this term may be somewhat belittling to unmarried couples, it is not a real legal option for most couples.
Courts typically will not award a partner alimony after a breakup unless they were lawfully married, but courts have upheld agreements for financial support and care after a breakup. However, like cohabitation agreements, courts are hesitant to give force to any agreements where it seems like sexual or romantic activities are exchanged for care or support.
Contact Our California Cohabitation Agreement Lawyers for a Free Consultation on Your Case
If you are moving in with your significant other, contact a lawyer to discuss the legal ramifications of sharing property. Our attorneys can help you draft a cohabitation agreement to help you and your partner clear up any issues surrounding how your property will be divided in the event of a breakup or if either of you moves out. For a free consultation on your case, contact our California cohabitation lawyers today at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth. Our number is (805) 643-5555.