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Unmarried couples and cohabitation agreements

Changes in societal norms in recent years have been felt across all facets of life in Charlotte. This includes marriage, where changing philosophies have presented a growing number or new challenges to the field of family law. One such change has been an increase in the number of couples choosing to cohabitate rather than marry. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 6.8 million unmarried couples living together in 2010. These couples will often share the same familial experiences as their married counterparts, as well as the same challenges should they ever choose to separate.

Unmarried couples may accumulate the same sorts of assets that married couples do during their time together, namely:

  •          Real estate
  •          Automobiles
  •          Bank accounts
  •          Investments

If and when their relationships end, the individuals in an unmarried partnership will typically not get the same legal treatment as married people during a divorce.

There is, however, a way for the people in an unmarried relationship to help ensure equitable division of shared assets. A cohabitation agreement is a contract that sets guidelines for the division of property when a couple chooses to separate. In North Carolina, the state recognizes the validity of such agreements provided that they are not based upon coercion or solely the exchange of sexual relations.

Forming such an agreement may prove to be difficult when a couple is approaching the end of their time together. Thus, it’s recommended that unmarried couples have this discussion early on in their cohabitation. Those who feel as though their relationships will never reach the point of separation may want to consider this: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 30 percent of first cohabitations amongst women 15 to 44 years of age end in separation within three years. 

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