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Unmarried couples who cohabitate look to protect their property rights

Today, unmarried couples who cohabitate are common place and one of the many reasons unmarried couples decide to live together is to share the burden of living costs. Consequently, as more unmarried couples live together, more couples are deciding to protect their property rights through pre-nuptial like agreements called cohabitation agreements. Like pre-nuptial agreements for married folks, cohabitation agreements protect individuals and decide property division when an unmarried couple's relationship sours.

Evidence of the growing cohabitation agreement trend has recently been shown by a survey of family law lawyers who are members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Fifty percent of the attorneys who were surveyed say over the last half decade they have seen an increase in the number of couples who have gone to court to settle their differences. Of those attorneys who have witnessed an increase, almost 40 percent said they have seen an increase in the number of unmarried couples who want cohabitation agreements executed.

Member attorneys advise unmarried couples who live together to consider a cohabitation agreement because settling a property dispute in court is more expensive for nonmarried people than it is for people who are married. Cohabitation agreements can not only protect individual rights but the agreements can help expand rights for same-sex couples who cohabitate in states where same-sex marriage is not recognized.

According to the same survey, one-third of the participating attorneys said the majority of cohabitation agreements they complete are for same-sex couples who want to outline their legal rights. Among all couples, the fear of accidentally or unknowingly acquiring the debt of a significant other has driven many people to complete cohabitation agreements.

Source: The Canadian Press, "Survey of U.S. divorce lawyers shows rise in prenups for unmarried couples," Leanne Italie, 2/14/11

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