Despite their not being a part of the Texas Family Code,
cohabitation agreements are contacted for in Texas and would most likely be honored by a
family law court. In a contact, both you and the other party should outline what
your rights are, what your duties are, and the specific circumstances
in which those rights and duties are applicable. A cohabitation agreement
often coincides with a common law marriage. A common law marriage does
not involve a formal exchange of vows, but if you and another person agree
to be married, live together as spouses and then hold yourselves out as
being married to the public at large you are married for all intents and purposes.
Misunderstandings are possible given how
common law marriages work in Texas. Suppose, for example, that you and your partner live together
and are in an otherwise committed relationship with one another and have
been for some time. You two may kiddingly talk about being married or
even act like it with the people in your lives. While this may at first
blush look to be like harmless acting, it can have real world implications.
Those implications will come to bear if you and your partner decide to
separate and move on from the relationship. While you may be operating
under the impression that your relationship is not a marriage, your partner
may be of a different mind. If your partner files a
divorce suit claiming that all the hallmarks of a common law marriage have been
met then it is likely that you will have to at least attempt to defend
your relationship as one of non-marriage. If you are unsuccessful then
the property that you believed to be yours and yours alone may end up
being community property and subject to be divided between you and your partner.
A Cohabitation Agreement Explained
In the event that your partner have been in a relationship for an extended
period of time and live with one another you would be able to sign a cohabitation
agreement. This document details how your income, property, financial
assets and debt would be divided up in the event that your relationship
comes to an end for any reason.
If you read yesterday’s blog from the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan this should sound similar to a premarital agreement, in that they both
cover financial issues ahead of time prior to a separation. Spousal support
or spousal maintenance can also be contracted for in a cohabitation agreement
,wherein either you or your partner can agree to pay the other a certain
amount of support for a certain length of time after the relationship
comes to a close.
How does the law view the property rights of unmarried cohabitants?
If you and your partner are living together but not married, the law does
not protect your property rights the same as it would had you both agreed
to tie the knot. This applies mainly to property that you both have purchased
or come to acquire during the course of your relationship. Whereas community
property laws govern in the event of a marriage dissolving, there is much
more grey area when it comes to unmarried cohabitants and the end of a
relationship. Dividing up an asset, piece of property or other item upon
end of your relationship may prove more difficult as a result.
What does it take to be considered as cohabitants?
Living together under the same roof and holding out to others that you
and your partner are married is a general definition that can be applied
to cohabitation. Being able to show that you and your partner are intimate
and engage in sexual relations is one way to prove cohabitation. The Texas
Family Code does not specifically define cohabitation and there are no
laws on the books that are related to this subject either.
If you and your partner have cohabitated for an extended period of time
it is worthwhile to be aware that courts have ruled that certain property
is held by one partner for the benefit of the other. This means that if
you have purchased property for your partner in order to benefit him or
her in some way a court may declare that if you all end your relationship
that property may be the property of your partner and not you. This is
despite the fact that you all did not enter into a contract related to
this property and have no community property laws that govern the relationship.
Of course, this is a general statement and information about your relationship
would be needed to give a better opinion on the subject.
What can a cohabitation agreement cover?
If you and your cohabitating partner do want to come up with a cohabitation
agreement, what exactly can the document cover? As we stated earlier the
most common area that a cohabitation agreement covers is how property
would be split up if your relationship were to end. A division of debts
is included in this as debts are just as common (if not more so nowadays)
as property it seems. Payments of support after the marriage ends can
be contracted for as well.
Finally, less commonly considered subjects like the person that can make
decisions for you or your partner should you lose the ability to do so
because of illness or injury can be covered by a cohabitation agreement.
These decisions can relate to medical issues or estate issues should one
of you pass away for any reason.
Questions on cohabitation agreements? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today
If you have any questions about cohabitation agreements or any other subject
in family law please do not hesitate to
Law Office of Bryan Fagan. One of our licensed family law attorneys is ready to assist you six days
a week with your questions. A consultation is always free and can be extremely
helpful in providing you peace of mind as you consider whether or not
a family law case is right for you.