New Jersey Cohabitation Agreements

For various reasons, more couples are choosing to live together without getting married than ever before. Some may fear the conflict and expense of a possible divorce, while others simply do not feel the need for a legally recognized union.

Regardless of the reason for foregoing marriage, unmarried couples do not automatically have the same rights as married spouses. As such, they may seek certain legal protections through New Jersey cohabitation agreements. A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand the purpose of these contracts and the protections they afford and work with you to determine whether a cohabitation agreement is right for you and your partner.

The Limited Rights of Unmarried Partners in New Jersey

New Jersey does not recognize common-law marriages. Accordingly, state laws regarding division of property for unmarried couples are different from those for married partners. Some property an unmarried couple acquires during their relationship might be joint because of its titling, but there are few clear mandates for dividing that property if the couple’s relationship ends. Additionally, neither party has a legal obligation to financially support the other if they separate, regardless of how long the relationship lasts or the disparity in the parties’ incomes.

Because of the legal uncertainties surrounding unmarried cohabitants, a breakup could result in negative effects for an individual that they may not have experienced in a divorce. A party could be left with an unfair property division or no viable means to support themselves, notwithstanding years of economic and non-economic contributions to the relationship. As such, it is wise for couples to explore the possibility of a cohabitation agreement with a skilled New Jersey attorney.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A contract between romantic partners who reside together is often referred to as a cohabitation agreement. These agreements are binding contracts that can outline the couple’s financial responsibilities during the marriage and if they terminate their relationship. Cohabitation contracts are similar to prenuptial agreements and can address issues such as:

  • How the partners will share the responsibilities for paying bills and maintaining their household
  • Whether property they acquire during their relationship will be separate or joint
  • Whether either party will share in the other’s retirement plan
  • How to distribute property if the couple separates
  • Who will remain in the shared residence after a separation
  • Whether either party is obligated to financially support the other, during or after the relationship, including if one party intends to leave or limit their career to stay home and raise the couple’s children

Enforcing Cohabitation Contracts in New Jersey

Because the law treats cohabitation agreements as binding contracts, they must meet specific requirements before a judge enforces them. The contract must be in writing, and both parties must sign it voluntarily, without undue pressure from the other party. Additionally, it must generally be fair to both sides and not leave one partner in a much worse financial position should the relationship end.

Before executing a cohabitation agreement in New Jersey, both parties must fully disclose their income, assets, and liabilities to the other. If one party enters a cohabitation contract based on false information or some form of deception, a court will not enforce the agreement. A party considering a cohabitation agreement is well-advised to consult with a knowledgeable attorney before entering the contract.

Discuss Cohabitation Agreements with a Capable New Jersey Attorney

Marriage creates a legal contract between partners, clearly defining their rights and responsibilities to one another and their children if they divorce. However, unmarried cohabitants do not automatically enjoy the same rights, making cohabitation agreements far more essential in these relationships.

A family law attorney can help you negotiate a comprehensive cohabitation agreement for your specific situation. A lawyer could also help you enforce a contract if you and your partner decide to end your relationship. To discuss New Jersey cohabitation agreements with a skilled legal professional, reach out to Moskowitz Law Group today.

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