Despite 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 contract, 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 obligations are applicable. A cohabitation agreement often coincides with 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 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 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
If your partner has been in a relationship for an extended period and lives 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 if your relationship comes to an end for any reason.
If you read yesterday’s blog from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, this should sound similar to a premarital agreement in that they both cover financial issues ahead of time before 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 live together but are not married, the law does not protect your property rights the same as it would have you both agree to tie the knot. This applies mainly to property that you both have purchased or come to acquire during your relationship. Whereas community property laws govern in the event of a marriage dissolving, there is much more grey area for unmarried cohabitants and the end of a relationship. Dividing up an asset, piece of property, or another item upon the 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 applied to cohabitation. Showing that you and your partner are intimate and engage in sexual relations is one way to prove cohabitation. The Texas Family Code does not explicitly define cohabitation, and there are no laws on the books related to this subject either.
If you and your partner have cohabitated for an extended period, it is worthwhile to be aware that courts have ruled that particular property is held by one partner for the benefit of the other. This means that if you have purchased the property for your partner to benefit them somehow, a court may declare that if you all end your relationship, that property may be the property of your partner and not you even though 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 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 the property would be split up if your relationship were to end. A division of debts is included in this as obligations are just as joint (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, PLLC, today.
If you have any questions about cohabitation agreements or any other subject in family law, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. 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 suitable for you.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Prenuptial Agreements in Texas
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- Attacking the Enforceability of a Premarital Agreement in a Texas Divorce
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's essential to speak with one of our Houston, TX, Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.