Securing the rights of unmarried couples
Couples who live together but are not legally married, whether of the same or different sexes, need a written contract in order to have rights if and when the relationship terminates. Much like prenuptial and postnuptial agreements for married couples, cohabitation agreements specify rights to property and other benefits.
E&L, LLP has experience in family law, including the laws that affect same sex couples. Our firm can works with their clients to protect their assets and define rights that are important to them, and their family structure.
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Common Law Marriage
The Family Code property and support rights, obligations and remedies are predicated on the existence of a valid marriage or registered domestic partnership. A common misconception many individuals have in California is that a couple that lives together for seven years or more was considered to have a common law marriage. However, no such time period ever automatically creates a common law marriage and currently, common law marriage no longer exists in California unless the marriage occurred prior to 1895.
Although California law does not provide for common law marriage, a valid common law marriage that arose in another jurisdiction is treated the same as any other marriage in California. Equally, couples ending a common law marriage in California must undergo the traditional divorce process, just like any other marriage.
Establishing rights through a cohabitation agreement
In Beverly Hills and throughout California, unmarried couples do not have the same legal privileges as married couples, however, a cohabitation agreement can establish certain rights. Cohabitation agreements can be beneficial for people with a high net worth as well as people with more modest assets. They are useful for anyone who wants to set-aside assets for children or protect assets in the event the relationship terminates.
Cohabitation agreements are legal contracts detailing the assets and debts each party has before entering the relationship. It establishes the property rights of each party should the couple separate, vacate the residence, or if one partner dies before the other. With a cohabitation agreement in place, dividing assets after the parties cease living together or after a death can be less complex. Issues such as owning real estate together and dividing health care benefits can be simplified if they are addressed in a cohabitation agreement.
Non-married couples in California who live together are not protected or obligated under any of the tenants of a standard marriage contract. Typically, an unmarried couple who are cohabitating will buy property and mix assets and monies without ever recording how they intend to distribute their acquired assets if they decide to part ways. This is where a cohabitation agreement can be exceedingly valuable.
Cohabitation agreements can help preventatively avoid problems that can arise from the comingling of money and property by defining the expectations regarding things like child care, health care, household expenses and property ownership if the cohabitates cease to live together. The specifics of the contract and what it addresses are very fluid and can be defined by the parties designing the contract. They can be all encompassing agreements that account for all assets and circumstances or they can be very specific contracts that are designed to address one particular item or event (the purchase of a home, for instance).
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If you are experiencing a divorce case, or have child custody issues, contact E&L, LLP, at (213) 306-5868, for a free case evaluation and consultation.