Cohabiting Couples: What are Your Legal Rights?

Many couples today are deciding to put off marriage longer, or forego it altogether in favor of less traditional relationship structures. For many, this means living with a partner in a committed relationship without ever being formally married. While some states recognize these types of long-term relationships as “common law marriages,” New Jersey currently does not. So, do cohabiting couples in New Jersey have legal marital rights?

Although social mores have changed dramatically since common law marriage was abolished in New Jersey in 1939, there has been no move to reinstate common law marriage laws. Thus, cohabiting couples who present themselves as married but lack a marriage certificate are ineligible for many of the benefits provided by legal marriage, including claiming their partner’s insurance or workers’ compensation benefits, inheritance rights, or the right to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a partner, for example. When it comes to power of attorney, unmarried couples can only make decisions for one another if they both obtain living wills giving a partner express legal permission to make medical decisions on the other partner’s behalf.

Cohabitation agreements are extremely important for unmarried couples to safeguard their rights. Like a premarital agreement, this is a binding legal agreement that is designed to protect each partner from unnecessary cost and litigation should the relationship end. A cohabitation agreement makes arrangements for things like financial support, childcare, how to deal with debt, property rights, etc. It also specifies in advance who will keep specific assets and what will happen for assets that were acquired jointly.

Do you have further questions about how to protect your rights in a cohabiting relationship? Do not hesitate to contact Moskowitz Law Group, LLC. For a free consultation with a New Jersey family law attorney, please call our firm. We look forward to hearing from you!

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