What happens with assets and property when cohabitation ends?

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

Many New Jersey couples live together without getting married. Some want to wait until they have both established their respective careers before tying the knot, while others decide to marry when they start a family, and some never get married. Just like marriages, some cohabitation arrangements come to an end, but the division of assets and property can be more complicated for those who were not married.

Couples who live together can enter into cohabitation contracts, which are similar to prenuptial agreements that are signed by many couples before they get married. Living together agreements have to meet the same requirements as any other contract. The terms typically include property and financial matters, while the courts will still rule on child-related issues like custody and parenting time.

A written cohabitation contract will have more chances of being found valid than an oral or implied agreement. Typically, such an agreement will no longer be valid if the couple eventually chooses to get married. They may have to sign a prenuptial agreement that specifies how the property and assets they gathered while cohabiting must be divided in the event of a divorce. Living together agreements that include one party’s need to provide sexual services in exchange for sharing the other party’s income would not be enforceable, though a contract to live together and share income in exchange for companionship might be.

Cohabitation agreements are the most appropriate way to make sure that the assets and property of both parties are protected. Although living together contracts are typically less regulated and more flexible than prenuptial agreements, they must meet legal requirements. For this reason, it makes sense to consult with an attorney who has experience in all aspects of family law in New Jersey.

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