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Legal pitfalls in breaking-up with live-in partner

Cohabitating rates are rising and marriage rates are dropping. The United States is undergoing a rapid change in the concept of "family" and "marriage." This is an exciting and confusing time for many people. Unfortunately, the confusing extends into the legal arena. Family courts are not equipped to manage disputes between unmarried couples because marriage rights do not activate without marriage. This leaves many couples out in the cold and unsure of what to do next.

The cohabitation agreement was created in response to this rising confusion. According to a study from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, there has been a 26 percent increase in couples seeking cohabitation agreements.

The cohabitation agreement operates similarly to a prenuptial agreement. It can set-up a method by which property is divided, partner support arrangements, assign a person inheritance rights and allocate debt obligations.

The cohabitation agreement, like a prenuptial agreement, does carry some stigma. Many people consider an affirmative acknowledgment that their relationship is going to fail. But that is not the proper way to view these agreements. For example, if you buy property insurance you aren't betting that your house is going to burn down, you are protecting yourself in case it does happen. Cohabitation agreements are a form of insurance for unmarried couples.

These agreements clarify many of the joint property rights between unmarried couples. Without these agreements some couples may go without their inheritance rights or support, even after years of living together.

If you recently broke up with your live-in partner then you may want to contact an attorney at your earliest convenience. Break-ups are by their very nature complicated. It may sound like bringing in an attorney will only make it more complicated however there are complex property right issues at stake. Many people do not appreciate the rules in shared property, an attorney can ensure that your rights to your jointly held property are respected. A break-up does not mean that you should surrender all of your property as well.

Source: Huffington Post, "Avoiding a Costly Cohabitation 'Divorce'" Joslin Davis, May 2, 2016

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