Couples in Washington state, whether in domestic partnerships or simply living together, will be interested to know that marriage, increasingly, is not a prerequisite for legal contracts resembling prenuptial agreements.
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reports that 39 percent of their members observed an increase in cohabitation agreements among couples that live together but are not married. Nearly half of the lawyers surveyed reported seeing an increase in court cases involving unmarried cohabiting couples. According to the survey, cohabitation agreements currently seem to be more common among heterosexual couples than same-sex couples.
Legally binding cohabitation agreements can determine what happens in case of a breakup, covering the same sorts of issues that are typically covered in a prenuptial agreement. Topics covered may include child custody, support obligations, asset division and even custody of pets.
Experts say that the rise of consumer debt make contracts like cohabitation agreements and prenups increasingly important. One party may not want to be on the hook for a partner's debt. A cohabitation agreement can clearly define ownership of assets and debt, making allocation simpler after a breakup.
The rise in cohabitation agreements also reflects the decreasing popularity of marriage across the country. The Pew Research Center reports that, currently, only 51 percent of adults marry.
Couples who want to have a family or purchase property without marrying may find cohabitation agreements to be useful. In the absence of state laws regulating cohabitation, experts say that drafting a cohabitation agreement early in life together can prevent substantial litigation in the event of a split. An experienced family law attorney can assist couples in drafting a cohabitation agreement.
Source: kxly.com, "Prenups aren't just for married couples anymore," Jessica Dickler, March 20, 2012