Cohabitation Agreements

When couples decide to live together before getting married or forego getting married altogether, it’s a good idea to create a contract early in the cohabitation to define certain aspects of the relationship, such as shared finances, shared expenses and property ownership. It isn’t unusual for unmarried couples to accumulate assets over time, and it’s much better to consider entering into an agreement while your relationship is strong.

Why are cohabitation agreements important?

Contracts might not seem all that romantic, but without a defined agreement in place, if you split up and your relationships meets court-defined standards, the court will equitably distribute certain assets acquired during the relationship. This becomes particularly difficult if the couple purchased real-estate or other high-value assets while together.

To more clearly determine how assets will be distributed if you separate, or if one partner passes away, couples should consider a Cohabitation Agreement,” or “Living Together Agreement.” Cohabitation agreements can outline what happens to property, who is responsible for monthly expenses, how much money you are each expected to contribute to joint accounts, and much more.

What should a cohabitation agreement include?

Every relationship is different, and your cohabitation agreement can be as unique as your relationship. Most cohabitation contracts should include:

  • Ownership of prior assets
  • Responsibilities for paying expenses
  • Who owns assets acquired during the relationship
  • How finances will be managed, such as credit cards, insurance, bank accounts, etc.
  • How assets will be distributed if you separate
  • What methods will be used for resolving disputes if you separate

Frequently Asked Questions About Cohabitation Agreements in Washington State

What happens to assets we buy while living together if we split up?

If you have a properly executed cohabitation contract in place, the agreement should define and control how those assets will be divided. If you don’t have a written cohabitation agreement, you should try to come to an agreement together in mediation, otherwise these issues will be decided by a judge.

Sometimes it can be difficult for couples to make asset decisions amicably. We have mediators who can help make this process go more smoothly. If you can’t come to an agreement and have to go to court, the court will divide assets and liabilities equitably under the circumstances of your relationship.

Is there alimony or spousal support for unmarried couples that split up?

No. Unless you agreed to it in a cohabitation agreement; unmarried couples in Washington state aren’t legally entitled to spousal support payments. Alimony or spousal maintenance is only awarded if there is a marriage dissolution or separation.

Will the court punish a person who cheats on their partner?

No. Washington in a no-fault state. If no cohabitation agreement exists, the property will be divided equitably without regard to infidelity.

Am I liable for my partner’s debts if we aren’t married?

Unless you share one or more joint accounts, have co-signed on loans or credit cards, or previously signed an agreement to the contrary, you aren’t generally responsible for your unmarried partner’s debts.

Need more information about cohabitation rights, or help with a cohabitation agreement in Seattle?

Integrative Family Law can help you protect your assets and plan for your future together. Call us at 206-859-6800


Nothing on this page is intended as legal advice for an individual. Call us now to learn more about how we can assist in your specific situation.