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Can unmarried couples legally protect against a breakup?

| Aug 19, 2020 | Divorce

Many of today’s young adults are turning relationship standards on their heads. For example, it is more common for young adults to live with an unmarried partner than it is to get married. According to the United States Census Bureau, living with an unmarried partner was rare 50 years ago, but today it may be the norm for those ages 18-24.

Without some of the legal protections that marriage offers, relationship contracts have also become popular among young adults. Relationship contracts usually spell out the expectations for a relationship and how the couple plans to separate their lives from each other if the relationship should fail. While this can be a useful tool to help unmarried couples get on the same page, an informal contract like this is not legally binding.

What can happen without legal protection?

Unfortunately, this means that an informal relationship contract may offer unmarried couples peace of mind, while leaving them vulnerable to the same sorts of risks they would face without any contract at all. If an unmarried couple, with or without a relationship contract, mixes their possessions together or invests in shared possessions, there may be no legal options to help ensure those possessions are fairly divided if they break up.

What legal options do unmarried couples have?

However, unmarried couples do not need to rush into marriage to secure that sort of protection. A cohabitation agreement can provide them legal protection in case the relationship doesn’t work out.

A cohabitation agreement works in a similar way to a prenuptial agreement, except the couple who enters into the agreement does not need to be married. It allows an unmarried couple to decide how their possessions will be divided if they should break up.

Signing a cohabitation agreement can feel like a big step for a relationship, but living together can also be a big step. While a cohabitation agreement may not be appropriate for all situations, it does offer a couple the legal protection they may need to help ensure both people are treated fairly in the event of a breakup.