Cohabitation in Pennsylvania
June 17, 2013


Protecting Yourself When You Are Unmarried, Live Together and Break-Up in Pennsylvania

So, when you are an unmarried couple living together, without the protection of the Pennsylvania divorce code in the event of a split, what can you do to plan?  You can enter into what is commonly known as a Cohabitation Agreement or Domestic Partnership Agreement.

Cohabitation Agreement

Next question, what is a cohabitation agreement?  Most importantly, it is a legally binding contract.  Therefore, you should never enter one without a full understanding of its contents and the ramifications of its provisions.  Although you do not need to consult with an attorney before entering any contract, it is always advisable to do so to ensure your individual concerns and rights are protected.  A typical question that couples when considering whether to enter an agreement like this is if they can use the same attorney.  An attorney cannot represent you both because you each have individual interests, which at the time you enter the agreement may appear to be the same; however, in the event an issue arises with regard to the agreement, your interests may become quite different.

What Is In A Cohabitation Agreement?

Enough about the lawyers, you are probably wondering what goes into a cohabitation agreement.  Similar to a prenuptial agreement, a cohabitation agreement will identify the assets (bank accounts, real estate, vehicles) and debts (mortgages, car loans, credit cards) of the parties and how that property is titled.  Most importantly, it will define how the property and debt will be divided should the relationship end.  It can also address how you will divide household goods and furnishings.  Maybe even more importantly (at least to this animal lover), it can address custody of the family pets.

Cohabitation Agreements Provide Legal Protections

In practical terms, a cohabitation agreement puts legal protections into place that are not otherwise available to unmarried couples.  For example, you and your partner may jointly own a savings account with a balance of $10,000.  If  the relationship appears to be headed for a break up, either one of you could withdraw the entire amount of your savings account and there is nothing the other person could do about it.  There is no legal ramification to the partner that withdrew the funds and no legal recourse for the partner left with an empty savings account.  However, if a married couple has that same savings account and one of them withdraws the entire amount, the other person still has an equitable interest in that $10,000 and under the divorce code is entitled to whatever share of it the court determines is fair.

In addition, a cohabitation agreement will address the parties’ finances and how living expenses will be paid.  It can also address whether one party might receive financial assistance after the dissolution of the relationship and how that would be arranged.

Protects You Whether You Are Opposite Or Same Sex Couples

The bottom line is that unmarried couples, whether opposite or same sex, need to take control by defining their legal rights and responsibilities because Pennsylvania law has not yet done that for them.

Contact Us For Help With a Cohabitation Agreement

If you would like more information about cohabitation agreements, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.