As many already know and are aware, many couples choose to live under the same roof together either before they get married or with no plans to get married. As a result, cohabitation agreements are becoming increasingly popular in New Jersey. If you have never heard of a cohabitation agreement, it is a legal document that gives these couples legal rights and protections that they do not have because they are not married. While you may think that this type of agreement is nonsense or not worth your while since you do not want a legally recognized marriage, it is a crucial step to protecting your assets and avoiding potential heartache in a non-marital relationship.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding document between two individuals who are in a relationship and live together. The goal of this contract is to lay out the financial responsibilities of each individual in case the relationship ends. A few of the factors that a cohabitation agreement covers include:

  • How the two partners are expected to pay the bills or utilities:
    The agreement will go over which bills or utilities one partner is expected to pay and which bills or utilities the other partner is expected to pay for each month. While this may seem a little obvious, you may be surprised that many couples move in together, and one partner eventually stops paying the bills, leaving the other with full responsibility for the household expenses.
  • How property ownership will be divided:
    If the couple decides to buy any property, the cohabitation agreement will explain whether the property will be considered separate or joint property. This is important because if the relationship ends, both partners may feel entitled to the properties they invested in.
  • What the living arrangements will be if the couple separates:
    If the couple breaks up, there needs to be a clear outline explaining living arrangements. Without this outline, both partners may think that they can continue to reside inside the home, which can cause a tremendous amount of conflict.

Cohabitation agreements are very similar to prenuptial agreements, except for couples who are simply dating or in a long-term relationship and residing together. There are a couple of crucial differences between a cohabitation agreement and a prenup that you should know about, such as:

  • Cohabitation agreements are not based on marriage. Any couple living together or planning to move together can establish a cohabitation agreement.
  • A prenup agreement is usually enforced by laws and statutes around family and divorce laws, while a cohabitation agreement is enforced by contract law.
  • A New Jersey divorce lawyer or a family law attorney can handle the prenup agreement process, while a family lawyer generally handles a cohabitation agreement.

Regardless of the type of agreement you need, consult a New Jersey family lawyer to help you legally develop and enforce your contract. In addition, if you and your partner create a cohabitation agreement and decide to get married, your attorney can use your cohabitation agreement to create a prenup agreement. This helps make the process a lot smoother as everything is generally already laid out for you, your partner, and the attorney to see.

Why Should NJ Couples Consider a Cohabitation Agreement?

It would help if you considered many benefits when deciding whether to create a cohabitation agreement with your partner. Some of these benefits include:

  • Financial clarity:
    When you and your partner develop a cohabitation agreement, you both have financial clarity. This means that you both are being transparent about your financial situation, know who has rights to the property and assets you purchase, and know which bills to pay while living together. It does not leave the door open for any confusion and ensures that you are treated equally and fairly.
  • Asset protection:
    f you have any valuable assets, a cohabitation agreement ensures that the assets will remain yours even after you and your partner end the relationship. Therefore, a cohabitation agreement will protect these assets if you have an expensive piece of art or one of your great-grandparents gave you some furniture that you’d like to hang onto.
  • Reduced conflict:
    A cohabitation agreement can help reduce disagreements and arguments. This is because both partners can refer to their agreement and see what exactly belongs to one another and what does not. This ensures everything is laid out and easy to understand, reducing conflict during or after the relationship.
  • Peace of mind:
    When a couple separates or breaks up, knowing how to move on and learn to live your life single again can be very difficult. However, having a cohabitation agreement will give you peace of mind, knowing that you will never have to worry about your partner taking something that belongs to you or skipping out on paying the rent they agreed to when signing the lease. Everything is in the legal agreement, meaning you do not have to stress about the uncertainty of the future. This gives a sense of security and stability to both partners.

Key Clauses to Include in Your NJ Cohabitation Agreement

If you are new to creating a cohabitation agreement, you may wonder what should be discussed and entered into this type of agreement. While some many different topics or factors can go into a cohabitation document, these are the essential clauses that you should consider:

  • Property division:
    You and your partner should review how assets and liabilities will be divided if you separate.
  • Financial arrangements:
    Another essential factor to talk over with your partner during this process is financial arrangements. This consists of topics such as contributions to joint expenses, individual debts, and banking accounts.
  • Living arrangements:
    Living arrangements are essential to discuss as you want to make sure that you both know what to expect while living together and if you end up splitting. This includes rent and mortgage payments, ownership rights, and responsibilities.
  • Duration of the agreement:
    You also want to clearly explain how long you want the deal to last. Some couples give their cohabitation agreements an expiration date, while others choose for the deal to last indefinitely.
  • Dispute resolution:
    Lastly, you want to make sure that you develop a procedure for resolving disagreements and amendments to the agreement.

Call Jersey Coast Family Law Today

Suppose you or your partner are thinking about establishing a cohabitation agreement. In that case, you both must seek independent legal advice from a New Jersey lawyer specializing in family law. Our team at Jersey Coast Family Law can help you draft a fair and enforceable cohabitation agreement. While you may be nervous about presenting this idea to your partner, you should remember that a cohabitation agreement has many benefits, such as financial clarity, asset protection, reduced conflict, and peace of mind.

Therefore, once your partner understands that you are only looking out for their best interests, taking this step will protect your and their assets and strengthen your relationship. If you are ready to learn more about cohabitation agreements in New Jersey, please fill out our contact form or call us at 732-361-4718 today. We have offices in Toms River and Red Bank serving clients throughout New Jersey and we are Where Family Comes First.