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The rise of cohabitation "divorces"

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Couples are choosing to live together, without marriage, at increasing rates. Every year the number of unmarried cohabitating couples increases. If these couples break up, it can be messy and confusing. Unlike marriage, many cohabiting couples do not understand the legal rights and responsibilities of sharing property. This can lead to confusing break-ups and complex asset division issues.

In response to this confusion, the cohabitation agreement was invented. A cohabitation agreement is a contract between a couple that can lay out the rules on how to divide jointly-owned property, who is responsible for what bills, and other joint residency issues. In fact, a recent study from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that there has been a 26 percent increase in cohabitation agreement requests from unmarried couples.

A cohabitation agreement similar to a prenuptial agreement, however it is not limited to married couples. Unfortunately, as more couples choose to cohabitate, more couples also break-up. That same study found that there was a 45 percent increase in cohabiting couples resorting to the legal system to settle their disputes.

Cohabitation agreements can do many things, such as: grant inheritance rights, set-up a system for "partner support" in the event of a break-up and assign financial rights. But it is important to understand that any child support or child custody issues addressed in a cohabitation agreement could be overruled by the Court.

If you are breaking up with your long-term live-in significant other, then you may want to speak to an attorney. A lot of these disputes cannot be settled in family Courts because there was no marriage; however, an attorney can still help you clarify your positions. The sharing of property still entails legal rights and obligations. An attorney can help you through the process to ensure that your fair share of the communal property.

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

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