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  • Cindy Wysocki

When a Cohabitation Agreement may be necessary

If you are living with your partner but are not legally married, you may be interested to know that upon a change in that relationship status, such as a breakup, your partner may have certain rights to your property, and vice versa. It may be time to consider outlining the terms of your relationship with a cohabitation agreement, just so that you’re both on the same page. A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract that outlines the rights and responsibilities of individuals who are living together in a non-marital relationship, such as cohabiting couples. In Washington state, as in many other jurisdictions, having a cohabitation agreement can be important for several reasons:

  1. Property Rights and Asset Division: Without a cohabitation agreement, Washington state's laws on property division may not adequately protect the interests of cohabiting partners if the relationship ends. A well-drafted agreement can specify how property and assets acquired during the relationship should be divided in case of separation or death.

  2. Debt Responsibility: Cohabitation agreements can outline how debts accrued during the relationship should be handled, ensuring that each partner is responsible for their fair share of financial obligations.

  3. Financial Transparency: These agreements often require partners to disclose their financial assets and liabilities, promoting transparency and clarity in financial matters.

  4. Protection of Separate Property: If one partner enters the relationship with significant assets or property, a cohabitation agreement can protect their separate property from being considered joint property by specifying that it remains their sole ownership.

  5. Decision-Making Authority: These agreements can outline how significant decisions regarding the household or shared property should be made, such as the sale of a jointly-owned home.

  6. Avoiding Litigation: Cohabitation agreements can help prevent disputes and litigation in case of a breakup, which can be costly, emotionally taxing, and time-consuming.

  7. Legal Clarity: Having a written agreement prevents unwanted surprises by providing clear evidence of the intentions and expectations of both partners, reducing the risk of misunderstandings or disputes later on.

It's important to note that cohabitation agreements are legally enforceable in Washington state, but they must meet certain requirements to be valid. These agreements should be drafted with the assistance of an experienced family law attorney who is familiar with Washington's laws and can ensure that the agreement complies with state regulations. While a person may not enter a cohabiting relationship with the expectation of it ending, having a cohabitation agreement can provide peace of mind and help protect the interests and rights of both partners in case the relationship does come to an end or unexpected events occur.

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