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Do you need a cohabitation agreement?

Many couples don't consider drawing up a legal agreement when they decide to live together. They're not getting married, at least not yet, so there's no messy divorce to worry about.

However, when live-in relationships -- particularly long-term ones -- end, they can also be messy. That's why it may be wise for couples to consider something called a cohabitation agreement before they move in together.

Cohabitation agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements. In states like Florida, where common law marriage isn't recognized, a cohabitation agreement can help you protect your assets, determine how property will be divided and provide some level of financial security in the event of a breakup.

Just like prenups, cohabitation agreements can provide an opportunity for couples to discuss important financial issues such as who will pay what expenses and if and how your incomes will be combined. It also helps couples discuss their goals and expectations for the relationship before they move in together. Just as with a prenup, both parties should delineate their assets, debts and expenses completely and truthfully.

Cohabitation agreements can be particularly helpful if one person is bringing more assets into the living arrangement than the other. Perhaps one person is moving into the other person's home.

The same is true if one person plans to stop working for a time to, for example, be a stay-at-home parent or to go back to school. Just as when a couple divorces, if you've been out of the workplace for a time because your live-in partner has been supporting both of you, it may take some time to get back on your feet financially after a break-up.

While cohabitation agreements can address issues of child support and child custody, those may not hold up in court as well as issues around property and finances. Your Florida family law attorney can advise you about what you can and should include in a cohabitation agreement.

As with a prenup, it's best if both people have their own attorneys review the agreement to ensure that their interests are protected. A cohabitation agreement can save you considerable conflict if you and your partner go your separate ways. If you choose to get married, it can be a sound basis for your prenup.

Source: Huffington Post, "Avoiding a Costly Cohabitation ‘Divorce’," Joslin Davis, accessed June 06, 2016

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