The term “non-marital agreement” simply refers to an agreement between two people who are living together and are not married. These agreements are contracts intended to detail property rights for unmarried couples, and are similar to the rules that govern property rights that married couples establish through premarital agreements. Non-marital agreements determine how money, property, and debt, amongst other things, will be handled during and after the relationship.
Premarital agreements, also known as prenuptial agreements, are contracts entered into before marriage. They specify how the couple will divide their property, debts, income, and expenses if the marriage dissolves. Some of the common prenuptial agreement clauses include:
- Property and financial separation, to protect separate property and protect themselves from their spouse’s debt;
- Alimony, to determine the level of support (if any) afforded to which spouse in the event of divorce or death; and
- Choice of law clauses which details which laws will govern any disputes that may arise before the wedding.
These are just a few examples of prenuptial agreement clauses. The difference between non-marital agreements and prenuptial agreements is that non-marital agreements are entered into with no assumption of marriage. In comparison, prenuptial agreements are made prior to an agreed upon marriage. Both types of agreements seek to establish rules regarding assets over the course of the relationship.
If you and your partner are living together or plan on buying a property that you will share, but do not plan on getting married, having a non-marital agreement will help establish who owns what. Further, the non-marital agreement will determine how you deal with all financial aspects of your relationship. It can also establish how monthly bills and income are to be divided during the relationship.
Non-marital agreements are essential should the relationship end. If there is ever any debate as to who owns what, a non-marital agreement will assist in dividing your property in the case of a breakup or death.
Some of the ways in which a non-marital agreement can help include:
- Share of Property: A non-marital agreement will clarify what you own, and what your partner owns, if you and your partner are sharing property. Understanding your share of property is especially important if you and your partner purchase a house together, for example;
- Division of Property: A non-marital agreement will make it easier to divide property in case of a breakup or death;
- Creates a Plan: Creating a non-marital agreement opens communication regarding the financial aspects of your relationship in a way that is fair to both parties. Creating a plan together can strengthen your relationship by removing some of the variables later on should the relationship dissolve; or
- Debt Division: If you do not plan on marrying your partner, there is no legal obligation to take on their debt. Should the relationship dissolve, it will be essential to have a detailed account of what debt belongs to which property in order to avoid being stuck with the other person’s debt. Additionally, the non-marital agreement can specify who pays for what during and after the relationship.
Essentially, a non-marital agreement can provide clarity during potentially confusing times. These agreements can be a useful tool in strengthening relationships by providing peace of mind and ensuring that all parties are treated fairly, if the relationship should end.
Non-marital agreements may contain anything needed to determine the financial details of a non-marital relationship. However, these agreements are generally created to contain information on how property, money, and debt is to be divided upon the dissolution of the relationship. Some of the most commonly included terms are:
- Property Acquired During the Relationship: The agreement should determine how property acquired during the relationship is to be treated, and which partner owns what percentage of that property;
- Property Acquired Through Gift or Inheritance: The agreement should state how gifts acquired during the relationship are to be handled. Some couples will split the gift, while others will keep it as their own, separate property;
- Expenses: The agreement should create a plan as to how expenses are to be paid during the relationship, such as rent, utilities, etc;
- Separation or Death: The agreement should detail how property will be distributed between the parties in the event of a separation or death;
- Dispute Resolution: Although one of the purposes of a non-marital agreement is to avoid disputes, specifically financial disputes, the agreement should also contain instructions on how disputes should be resolved should they arise. The couple should define how they wish to resolve disputes;
- Property Brought Into the Relationship: It is important that any non-marital agreement dictates how property brought into the relationship is to be treated or divided, if necessary; and
- Responsibility of Debt: The agreement should indicate who is responsible for which bills, as well as which party is obligated to which debts, in order to avoid taking on the other person’s debt at the end of the relationship.
A skilled and knowledgeable family law attorney can be a valuable asset when creating a non-marital agreement. They can ensure you understand your state’s laws regarding non-marital relationships and agreements, and can assist in creating an agreement that protects the interests of everyone involved.
Additionally, they can ensure that the agreement is actually legally binding. Finally, an experienced family law attorney can answer any questions you may have regarding the ownership of property as well.