The end of any relationship can be a trying time for the parties involved, regardless of marital status. For married couples this difficult time is lessened with the aid of Virginia law and courts. Married couples in Virginia can use the judicial system to help them decide challenging questions such as how to divide their property and debts, to determine if spousal support will be paid and for how long, and to decide what should happen to the marital home. Married couples can resolve these issues at different times in their relationships—before the marriage, through a prenuptial agreement; during the marriage, with a postnuptial agreement; or after they separate, with a property settlement agreement. Alternatively, married couples can submit these questions to a judge for determination in a divorce proceeding.
Unfortunately, couples who are not legally married are not afforded these same opportunities. Unmarried couples cannot benefit from the same legal mechanisms as married couples for deciding these important issues when their relationships end. However, an unmarried couple can use a “cohabitation agreement” to resolve some of these issues in advance.
A cohabitation agreement is a document that specifically outlines the rights and obligations of each party if they ever find themselves at the point of separation. These contracts can be tailored to govern many areas of concern that the parties may face, such as the division of jointly owned personal and real property, the financial and general obligations of each person, and the payment of any post-breakup support. Entering into a cohabitation agreement will allow a couple to explore their relationship (and save money in the process) by living together, while setting in place defined legal protections and specified rights if the relationship deteriorates. These arrangements not only provide peace of mind at the outset of the relationship, but also can make an emotionally difficult time at the end of the relationship go smoother.
If you are in a relationship and think a cohabitation agreement might be right for, be sure to speak with an experienced family law attorney in your area. Livesay & Myers, P.C. has a team of experienced family lawyers across offices in Fairfax, Arlington, Ashburn, Manassas, and Fredericksburg, representing clients across Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.