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Legal Risks of Cohabitation

In 2019, more than 18 million Americans found themselves cohabitating with their partners instead of entering into a traditional marriage. For older people and some who aren’t, the idea of marriage brings a level of commitment they aren’t ready for. And for some, why fix something that isn’t broken. While cohabitation works for some people, you and your partner need to be aware of some legal risks of cohabitation.

Understanding the legal risks of living together will help you to move forward with more awareness to make necessary decisions for your future.

Legal Strangers by Law

The first legal risk of living together is to everyone outside of your home; you’re considered ‘legal strangers.’ This means that in the event something happens to one partner, you’re not going to be treated as if you’re married by legal professionals.

When you’re married, and something happens, even if you’ve not written it out, your spouse will be the person that makes medical decisions for you. However, in the case of cohabitation, because you’re considered legal strangers, you won’t be granted the same permissions that a married couple would be granted.

The medical staff would do their job to locate a blood relative to make the medical decisions in your partner’s case. If the medical staff is willing to allow you to make decisions for your partner, they could face liable problems regardless of marital status.

While this is the way the law sees your partnership, there are some benefits that come from cohabitation. Legally, when a couple divorces, they have to go through lengthy proceedings to determine how their assets will be dissolved and split between the two.

In a cohabitation relationship, you don’t have to deal with these problems because you make the rules in your relationship. You can also avoid paying a marriage tax, also known as a marriage penalty, that could increase your overall tax bill.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself and Your Partner Against the Risks of Cohabitation?

While there are several things you avoid by being unmarried, it can have an adverse reaction on your partner’s future if something were to happen to you. Here are some tips to ensure your partner is taken care of even if you’ve not said ‘I do.’

Prepare a Will

Hiring an attorney to help you draft a will is the best thing you and your partner could do moving forward. A will is like a binding contract that people must follow after you pass because it details your dying wishes for your assets.

In your will, ensure you document the assets you want to be left to your partner.

Although you’re not married, the will clarifies who is to inherit which assets. This helps to reduce the need for fighting or other disagreements between families.

Cohabitation Agreement

By drafting a cohabitation contract and signing it, you outline what will happen if you and your partner decide to go your separate ways. As mentioned above, this is not the same as marriage, where you can go to court and have your assets divided equally.

You can go to court in a cohabitation relationship, but the idea you’ll receive the same outcome as married couples aren’t true. This written agreement serves as evidence in court if things were to go that far.

Keep in mind cohabitating couples go to court in some cases.

If you’re unsure of what rights you have when you choose to cohabitate, the smartest thing to do is speak with a lawyer. They can explain in-depth the steps you and your partner need to take to protect each other and yourselves individually moving into the future.

Take Care of Children: Sign Statements of Paternity

In past generations, children that are had illegitimately didn’t receive the same rights that biological children received. This means you need to take steps to protect your child carefully.

There are different situations in which a child would be declared illegitimate, including:

  • The marriage between the parents wasn’t legal or declared null
  • Parents cohabitate and weren’t married
  • The child is the product of an extramarital relationship
  • The child came out of a sexual assault situation or was born to a sex worker

As the law changed surrounding illegitimate children, the way they were being treated directly clashed with the 14th amendment. You need to establish the paternity of the child as soon as possible to protect them in the future.

For example, establishing paternity can help secure an inheritance or health benefits provided by the father that the child(ren) wouldn’t have access to without the paternity statement. Even if you and your partner decide to part ways, you can still guarantee your children will be taken care of.

Why Not Get Married?

Why not get married? It solves everything, right?

The truth is marriage isn’t for everybody, and that’s okay. While it could solve several issues for unmarried couples, it can also cause problems if both partners aren’t on the same page.

Marriage is a commitment you need to speak to your partner about, but if you’re reading this, the idea of cohabitation has rung true with you and your partner.

Legal Risks of Cohabitation

There are several legal risks of cohabitation from not having the rights to each other’s money or assets without it being written in the form of a will. Another risk is not being able to make decisions for your partner if something were to happen to them.

It’s time you stop wondering what will happen in our future and contact Boyer Law Firm, P.L. We understand and can provide expert service for inheritance, family law, and more.

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