Cohabitation agreement lawyer in Central Texas

The attorneys at Dunnam & Dunnam routinely represent people in cohabitation agreements. To discuss your cohabitation matter with an experienced Central Texas attorney, including our board certified family law attorneys, contact one of the following lawyers at 254-753-6437.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

If you’re one of the millions of couples who have opted to cohabitate without getting married, a cohabitation agreement may help you avoid financial and emotional turmoil. This is especially true in relationships where one of the partners has significantly higher net worth or annual earnings than the other. Cohabitation agreements can protect unmarried couples who also want to safeguard assets, avoid contentious, costly litigation and clarify other wishes should they decide to split up.

Avoid Common Law Marriage through a Cohabitation Agreement

Without a written agreement, cohabitating couples in Texas could risk that their relationship constitutes a common law marriage. Should the couple decide to part ways, and a judge rules that they are married to one another, the wealthy party could lose considerable assets in a community property state.
At the same time, the other party may be held responsible for certain debts and liabilities pertaining to their wealthy partners business dealings. A cohabitation agreement, that has been entered into voluntarily (by both sides), can help couples avoid the common law marriage argument, if the parties agree in writing that they are not married.

What is common law marriage?

  1. There is an agreement between the two parties that they are married.
  2. The couple lives together as husband and wife.
  3. The couple has presented themselves to other people as husband and wife.

Without a written agreement that disproves common law marriage, any community property and earnings acquired during the relationship may be subject to division by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Along with disavowing a common law marriage a cohabitation agreement might also include:

  • A “signing bonus” at the outset of the agreement.
  • Monthly spending budget for miscellaneous expenses.
  • Shopping budget.
  • Guaranteed date nights.
  • Requirements pertaining to wills, trusts, life insurance, etc.
  • Clarification of financial arrangements (who pays what and when) and more.

In most cases, both parties should come to the table with their own attorneys. This is the best way to ensure that individual needs and wishes are met and that the agreement is ruled as fair to both parties, and thus more likely to hold up in court.

Cohabitation Agreements for Same Sex Couples

While the state of Texas only recognizes marriage as being between a man and a woman, same-sex couples can enter into cohabitation agreements in Texas. In fact, the state of Texas has frowned upon palimony lawsuits since they became popular in the 1970s and will not enforce any “nonmarital conjugal cohabitation agreement” that is not in writing.
This point of law grabbed headlines in 1996 when Thomas Zaremba filed a palimony suit against world-renowned, classical pianist Van Cliburn who resided in Texas. Since Zaremba and Cliburn did not enter into a written cohabitation agreement, the Texas courts eventually dismissed Zaremba’s lawsuit.

Same-sex couples with considerable assets, beloved pets and other valued property should seriously consider entering into a cohabitation agreement if they reside in Texas. Without a written agreement, and no common law marriage finding to fall back on, same-sex couples who split could be left to their own devices in untangling their assets.

If you are unmarried and living together, or the partner of a wealthy individual, it’s worth your time to discuss the ins and outs of cohabitation agreements with an experienced family law attorney. He or she can explain how cohabitation agreements work and the steps necessary to help ensure the agreement is enforceable in the state of Texas.

The attorneys at Dunnam & Dunnam routinely represent individuals in cohabitation agreements. To discuss your cohabitation matter with an experienced Central Texas attorney, including our board-certified family law attorneys, contact us at 254-753-6437.