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In today’s society, more couples choose to live together without getting married than ever before. This shift in cohabiting can be attributed to a variety of factors, including apprehension regarding the costs and complexities of divorce or simply the belief that engaging in a legally recognized union is necessary. Regardless of the reasoning for foregoing marriage, unmarried couples must understand that they are not entitled to the same legal rights and protections as married couples despite sharing a residence. As a result, unmarried partners should consider establishing a cohabitation agreement. This can provide legal safeguards and outline expectations for the relationship. If you are considering a cohabitation agreement, contact an experienced Monmouth County Divorce Attorney who can help determine whether this contract suits you and your partner. Please continue reading to learn the purpose of this contract and the protections it affords in New Jersey.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

Firstly, it’s crucial to understand that in New Jersey, the concept of common law marriage, which refers to unions established when couples live together but don’t receive a marriage license and present themselves as married to the public, is not recognized. Due to the lack of legal recognition, unmarried couples living together do not enjoy the same rights as those legally married. For instance, they may not be entitled to spousal support or inheritance of specific assets and financial benefits upon the death of their partner unless they have been explicitly identified as such in a valid will or trust document.

As such, it’s crucial for unmarried couples living together to consider a cohabitation agreement, which can safeguard their respective property rights in the event of separation or death. This legal document outlines the terms and conditions of a couple’s living arrangements, such as the division of assets, financial obligations, and potential dispute resolutions. By creating this agreement, unmarried partners can ensure that their respective interests are protected and that they are prepared for any unforeseeable circumstances that may arise later. A cohabitation agreement is very similar to a prenuptial agreement. This contract can cover a variety of topics, including:

  • The divisions of assets and debts
  • Division of incomes and expenses during the relationship
  • Management of businesses or property
  • Plans in the event of disability
  • Financial support payments
  • Child custody
  • Disbursement of retirement funds
  • Pet custody

While this contract may provide a roadmap for the obstacles unmarried partners may face in the future, it’s important to note that when it comes to matters of child custody, visitation, and support, these provisions will be subject to review by a family law court. The court’s foremost responsibility is to meet the child’s best interest.

How Are They Enforced?

Under New Jersey law, cohabitation agreements are binding contracts. This means they must meet specific requirements before a judge can enforce them if the relationship ends. To be found legally valid and enforceable, the contract must be in writing. In addition, both parties must agree voluntarily, without undue pressure from the other party. It must be fair to both parties and not leave one partner’s financial security in a worse position should the relationship end. The court will not enforce the agreement if the contract is based on false information.

If you are an unmarried partner looking to protect your rights, please don’t hesitate to contact the attorneys at Paone Zaleski & Murphy, who can help you negotiate a comprehensive cohabitation agreement for your unique situation.