Domestic Partner/Cohabitation Agreements: Separation

by Maureen B. Cohon

This is final piece in a three-part overview of domestic partner/cohabitation agreements. Part one discussed financial and property matters, and part two covered family issues. The final installment below addresses how these agreements can smooth the process of separation.

Potential Separation
In the unfortunate event of a separation, a domestic partnership agreement can save the parties the time and expense of litigating their rights and obligations, particularly with respect to property. Clients who contact us after deciding to terminate their partnership most often find parting less stressful if there is a signed agreement that states the partners’ wishes.

Questions to Consider

  1. What would happen if the relationship was no longer working for you or your partner?If you have an agreement most of the issues, which could cause problems, would be covered.  Parting will still be painful, but the agreement will be determined by you before the separation. The agreement would have addressed:
    1. How the notice of termination is given to each other.
    2. The time limits for the purchase or sale of the home and the distribution of the equity if it is a joint ownership.
    3. Distribution of your joint accounts.
    4. Issues regarding children.
    5. Any other issues that you determine you want in the agreement.

 Remember: each couple is different, and the issues addressed here (and in parts one  and two) will not apply in every circumstance. Domestic partner/cohabitation agreements, like most family law matters, need to be tailored to the individuals it serves.

While agreements are not easy to talk about while you are happy with each other, it is better to talk now than at the end of a relationship. Of course, the best outcome would be to create and sign the agreement and then put in a safe place and never have to look at it again!

Domestic Partner/Cohabitation Agreements: Family

by Maureen B. Cohon

This is part two in a three-part overview of domestic partner/cohabitation agreements. Part one discussed financial and property matters that can be addressed in these agreements. Below, part two will cover family issues.

Family & Living
One of the many purposes of a domestic partner/cohabitation agreement is to document for a court and any other interested parties (i.e. an employer from which you wish to obtain domestic partner benefits) the “family nature” of the cohabiting parties’ relationship and living arrangements.

Questions to Consider

  1. Are there children living with you? What are the responsibilities of the nonparent?
  2. Are you and your partner thinking of having children or adopting? Will one partner carry the baby and the other partner adopt after birth? Are you considering a surrogate or anonymous or known sperm or egg donor?

There are many ways to have children; couples should talk to someone, such as an attorney experienced in adoptions and related issues, to create a written agreement that outlines parenting expectations.

For example, after the baby is born and before any adoption, you may want an agreement that states your wish for your partner to adopt the baby and until the time of the adoption she/he will share responsibilities for the baby and be the guardian. This is important because if something happens to the adoptive or birth parent, the Court and relatives know your wishes regarding your child. Or, if a second parent adoption is not allowed in your state, you may want to have a document stating that you want your partner to adopt your baby at the time such adoption is allowed in your State, and the non-adopting parent shall be the child’s guardian until such adoption.

Please check back for more information on Potential Separations.

 

Domestic Partner/Cohabitation Agreements: Finances & Property

by Maureen B. Cohon

If you can’t marry in the state you live in – or if you do not want to marry – domestic partner/cohabitation agreements (the terms are interchangeable) can help you make a plan for your partnership.

In broad terms, these agreements address the sharing of assets and expenses, and can document for a court and any other interested parties (i.e. an employer from which you wish to obtain domestic partner benefits) the “family nature” of the cohabiting parties’ relationship and living arrangements. Specifically, these agreements may define the partners’ financial obligations to one another and to their children, clarify the ownership of major assets such as real or personal property, and protect the partners’ rights should they ever terminate their relationship.

In the unfortunate event of a separation, a domestic partnership agreement can save the parties the time and expense of litigating their rights and obligations, particularly with respect to property. Clients who contact us after deciding to terminate their partnership most often find parting less stressful if there already is a signed agreement that states the partners’ wishes.

In the next three posts, we’ll cover three broad categories of issues Domestic Partner/ Cohabitation Agreements can help address – finances & property, family, and potential separation.

Finances & Property

If you are living with someone, domestic partner/cohabitation agreements can outline what you and your partner will each contribute to living expenses, mortgage, utilities, entertainment, real estate taxes, homeowners or renters insurance and other items relating to your place of residence or any other shared property.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you have – or will you open – joint banking or checking accounts, joint credit cards, or investment accounts? You might want a joint account for only household purchases and separate accounts for credit card purchases or paying for personal items. If you have or want joint accounts of any kind, you may want to have both signatures for any withdrawals over a certain amount. If you and your partner decide to separate, how will you split the accounts?
  • How is your home titled?
  • If the home you live in is titled in one partner’s name:
    1. Did the non-owner partner contribute money to the purchase of the home?
    2. Does the non-owner pay any amounts to the mortgage for the property you are living in? What about for improvements on the home?
    3. Do these payments give the non-owner partner any ownership interests in the home?
  • If the home or other real property is owned jointly,
    1. Did each partner share the down payment and settlement costs equally and/or share the mortgage payments equally?
    2. If you sell the home, how will the equity be distributed? Will it be in proportion to the amount paid on the home by each, equally, or some other way? How do you determine the value of the house? How soon does it have to go on the market?
    3. If you separate, who will have the right of first refusal to purchase the home? In what amount of time?
    4. If one partner moves out, will that partner have to continue to contribute to the mortgage, utilities, etc.?
  • Is there property in the home that you brought into the household? Do you want the property to remain yours after a termination? This “separate property” could include family heirlooms or inherited property or property that just has sentimental value to you. Most couples have such property and agree that it belongs to the original owner.

Please check back for more information on Families and Potential Separations.