Unmarried couples who live together can create an agreement called a “living together contract.” A living together contract protects their rights as a couple, as well as their individual interests and assets. Because unmarried couples may one day split up, it may be quite useful to plan ahead in order to avoid any future conflicts. For example, marriage is a legal contract between two people which protects the rights and obligations that each party owes the other. Likewise, a living together contract protects the rights and obligations that each partner owes the other. The subject matter of these contracts typically include money, property, debts, etc.

Living together contracts may not be useful for every relationship.  Rather, couples who are likely to accumulate a significant amount of money, property and debt might want to draft such contracts. These contracts can also be a good idea for older couples who want to make sure their property is distributed in the way that they want upon death.

What Are the Guiding Principles of Living Together Contracts?

In California, the guiding principles are: 

  • Unmarried couples can enter into written and oral agreements to protect rights that are protected in marriage;
  • “Implied” non-marital agreements may be found after evaluation of a couple’s actions;
  • In the case that an implied agreement is not found, a judge can infer that each partner intended to deal fairly with the other partner. Accordingly, the judge can grant a partner rights and obligations based on principles of equity and fairness.

What Should Be Included in a Living Together Contract?

Living together contracts do not have to be too complex and they can be in plain language. The partners can also include as much or as little detail as they feel is necessary. These are some items that you can consider including in such a contract: 

  • Distribution of assets at the end of the relationship;
  • Ownership of property accumulated before, during or after the relationship;
  • Payment of expenses;
  • Daily responsibilities;
  • Dispute resolution; etc. 

What Happens to the Living Together Contract Upon Marriage?

A living together contract can still be enforceable after marriage. However, it must have been created shortly before your marriage at a time when both of you planned to marry. Also, it must meet the premarital agreement requirements in your state.

Should I Contact a Lawyer for Help With a Living Together Contract?

If you are considering drafting a living together contract, it is essential to list out the most important items. This is especially the case if there is a lot of money and property involved or if one partner has far more assets than the other. Moreover, you need to consider the specific rules which apply in your state. An experienced family law attorney can help explain what is required for a good contract and how to protect your rights and assets.