Cohabitating couples opt for same protections as married counterparts
DENVER (Dec. 14, 2020) ─ A recent Pew Research Center study found marriage rates in the U.S. continue to decline, while the number of adult couples who choose to cohabitate rises. According to the study, roughly two-thirds of adults (65%) favor allowing unmarried couples to enter into legal agreements that would give them the same rights as married couples with regards to health insurance, inheritance or tax benefits and more. To meet this demand, Fortis Law Partners is now offering cohabitation (aka “nonmarital”) agreements, to meet the needs of modern partnerships. These documents delineate the same types of legal protections typically addressed in a prenuptial agreement.
“Cohabitation agreements are increasingly in demand and for good reason,” said Fortis senior associate Paige Justus. “Couples today regularly choose to be in long-term committed relationships and live together, with no intention of ever marrying. What many don’t anticipate, however, is the can of legal worms that can follow if the relationship ends and one party decides to claim common law marriage—an occurrence that’s more ‘common’ than one might expect.”
Common law marriages require no ceremony, documentation or license to be considered legal. Specific requirements vary by state, but many couples are disconcerted to discover that Colorado’s common law marriage laws have nothing to do with the length of time they’ve been living together. Instead, common law marriage is defined by parties representing themselves to the public as a married couple, which courts decide based on a variety of factors.
A cohabitation agreement clearly establishes that parties are not entering into a common law marriage. This becomes important in situations where a house is titled in one party’s name and the other party is helping pay the mortgage or contributing to a remodel, as well as documenting how joint purchases, bank accounts, personal belongings, assets and/or debts will be divided in the event of a split.
It is a common misconception that nonmarital or premarital agreements are only necessary for rich people. “On the contrary,” said Justus, “many young couples without established careers or wealth choose to sign these agreements to help ensure that each person is responsible for their own student loans, and to protect against potentially assuming a partner’s debt in the future. Couples that have discussed their finances, debts, and assets transparently and in detail, and have a fair and legally-binding agreement in place can enter into a long-term relationship with peace of mind, knowing that they will be protected if the partnership ultimately breaks down.”
For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact Paige Justus.