Family Law

Why a Cohabitation Agreement is a Must Have

Apr 27, 2023

Let’s face it – marriage is not for everyone. In 2022, 41% of first marriages ended in divorce. That number appears to be going down since its peak of 53% in the early 1980’s. This reduction is likely due, at least in part, to people cohabitating instead of marriage, or waiting longer to get married. The median age for first time marriages has increased from 20 for females and 22 for males in 1960, to 28 and 30 in 2022.

While it seems that cohabitation is a better alternative than risking a messy divorce, it can sometimes be as costly to separate as a divorce. Couples are choosing to have children and purchase property together without being married. The law treats married couples differently than unmarried couples when it comes to property division. While custody and support laws are the same for married and unmarried couples, maintenance (also known as “alimony”) is not available for unmarried couples under Kentucky law. If a parent chooses to depend on their partner for support while caring for young children, they often have a very rude awakening if they separate. Not only are they not eligible for maintenance, but the law also now presumes joint custody and equal parenting time with children and can result in a reduced amount of child support for the nonworking parent.

How does one protect themself? Cohabitation agreements! These contracts detail how a couple will handle issues such as sharing assets, incurring debt, paying expenses, and even raising children. They can also provide for maintenance even though the law does not. Such agreements are legal and binding, and as effective as prenuptial agreements.

Our office has seen a significant increase in the number of cases involving property and custody disputes among unmarried couples in recent years. These disputes can cost each party thousands of dollars in attorney fees and court costs to resolve. The most common problems are:

  • Buying houses or cars in only one person’s name but paid for by both parties.
  • Buying houses or cars in both parties’ names but the debt is only in one person’s name.
  • Buying houses or cars in both parties’ names but paid for by one party.
  • Custody disputes.
  • Child support disputes.

If you are considering cohabitation with your partner, meet with an attorney before you sign any legally binding contract for purchase, lease, or debt. Get an agreement that defines each parties’ rights in property and obligations in debt before you move in together. Consider whether to pre-establish custody, support, and maintenance terms for one another.

While it might cost you some money to set up, it could save you a lot more money and stress if the relationship is terminated. The attorneys at Hoffman Walker & Knauf are ready and waiting to help you. (859) 371-2227,