Cohabitation Agreements: Protecting your assets before marriage

Cohabitation has become an important step in many relationships. Over the past few decades, as social and societal conventions have changed, the number of people choosing to live together prior to marriage has increased dramatically. These changes have raised new and unique legal issues, particularly the issue of protecting one’s assets if the cohabitation ends poorly.

Cohabitants do not have the same legal rights as married couples. Because of this they cannot rely on divorce proceedings or prenuptial agreements to help in the division of property and assets in the event of a break up.

In 1998, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized the use of cohabitation agreements between people who are either living together, or contemplating living together. Cohabitation agreements allow unmarried people to make binding decisions concerning property, financial, or other matters. These written agreements are subject to contract law, but are no longer valid when the couple marries.

These agreements can be used to establish guidelines for the distribution of property and assets if the relationship ends. Cohabitation agreements can be drafted by a licensed attorney.

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