Since 1995, the number of couples choosing to cohabitate before marriage has risen 41 percent. This is likely due, in part, to the economic benefits gained through cohabitation. In past years, research showed that cohabitation prior to marriage was more likely to end in divorce. A recent study from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, however, shows that the age at which cohabitation begins, not cohabitation itself, is what directly correlates to divorce rates.
Yet still we find ourselves in an age where more and more couples are becoming involved in these complex cohabitating relationships, ones wherein couples are buying homes, cars, and sharing checking accounts without giving thought to their legal rights should something happen to their relationship or their significant other.
Rights in Marriage and Cohabitation
Marriage, by operation of law, allows one spouse many rights that are not provided to those individuals who cohabitate but are unmarried. Advanced planning will allow the couple to provide for the other at death, and allow for simplified property distribution should the relationship end.
Cohabitation agreements, while not formally recognized in the State of Illinois, under Hewitt v. Hewitt, 394 N.E. 2d 1204 (1979), can be created to protect the individuals. While the agreements are not formally recognized in Illinois, contracts between individuals are, and an agreement between you and your partner can be drafted and implemented to protect the investment of assets and ownership in those things you have brought into the relationship.
Such agreements should expressly state ownership and property rights of homes, bank accounts, vehicles, furnishings, and pets. Stipulations regarding children, gifts, debts, financial obligations, and loans should also be included to ensure that one party is not responsible for paying off the debts of another should something happen. In addition, clauses regarding whether or not the couple wishes to go to mediation, or who is responsible for attorney’s fees upon separation, should be discussed and included in the agreement. Finally, the terms of the agreement must be written independent of the sexual relationship between the couple, as courts have been unlikely to enforce such agreements where sexual relations between the parties are seen as consideration for the contractual agreement.
Contact a Family Law Attorney in Illinois
No couple in love ever wants to create a plan for separation, but oftentimes one party is left with little after significant financial contribution has been given to the relationship. The creation of a cohabitation agreement alleviates the stress and anxiety that one may feel when deciding to move in together.
If you have questions regarding your rights in your cohabitating relationship, or are considering moving in with your significant other, the knowledgeable attorneys concentrating in domestic partnerships at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. can help you in drafting a cohabitation agreement that protects your assets, your financial input to the relationship, and ensures that you receive the rights that you deserve should anything happen to your significant other.