More young couples are opting to live together without getting married. Many choose to skip the traditional marriage ceremony for personal reasons and instead sign cohabitation agreements. California is at the forefront with its progressive stance on this trend. In this month’s blog, we’ll explore the ins and outs of cohabitation agreements in California, discussing their recognition and what you need to know if you’re living with your partner.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a contract between two people in a romantic relationship living together but aren’t married. It outlines the rights and responsibilities of each partner, covering everything from property division to financial support. Think of it as a prenuptial agreement, but for those who aren’t walking down the aisle.

Are Cohabitation Agreements Recognized in California?

The short answer is yes but with some caveats. California does recognize cohabitation agreements, but they aren’t as straightforward as marriage-related agreements. The courts won’t handle a child custody case as they would in a divorce case for a married couple. In essence, these agreements are treated like any other contract, as long as they are clear and consensual. 

Related: Learn more about the rights and responsibilities of unmarried parents in California here.

Cohabitation Agreements vs. Common Law Marriage

The Golden State doesn’t recognize common-law marriage, but some rights are now afforded to “cohabiting couples” of any gender, who live together. Previously, entering a domestic partnership required the partners to be over 18 years old. However, these restrictions were lifted, allowing any individual, even under 18, to legally enter into a domestic partnership if they meet the requirements.

This means living together for a certain period doesn’t give you the same rights as a married couple. This is where a cohabitation agreement can come in handy. It offers a way to protect yourself and your assets without the legal bonds of marriage.

Related: Learn more about types and implications in California here.

Why Bother with a Cohabitation Agreement?

You might wonder why you’d need a cohabitation agreement if you’re not tying the knot. Here’s the deal: living together can create financial entanglements and potential disputes if the relationship goes south. A cohabitation agreement can help smooth things over by clearly defining expectations and responsibilities. It can address:

  • Property Rights: Who owns what and how property will be divided if you split up.
  • Financial Responsibilities: How bills and expenses will be shared.

Related: Learn more about defining unfit parenting and the power of documentation here.

Protect Yourself During Cohabitation with Family Law Richard E. Young & Associates

Since there are not many laws in California protecting cohabiting couples, it is advised to take your future into your own hands. We will create a legally enforceable cohabitation agreement with your partner. Visit our website or contact us at (949) 951-9529 to learn more about how we can assist you.