What’s Involved in Cohabitation Agreements in Michigan?
Prior to the baby boomer generation, it was unusual for couples to live together prior to marriage. Whether it was considered sinful, improper, or merely unwise, it was the societal norm for marriage to predate cohabitation. Over the years, however, social sentiment has shifted, and it has now become commonplace for unmarried couples to live together indefinitely.
Unfortunately, this can make for some legal difficulties should couples decide to split up. When a couple is married, they share equal rights to marital property, which is divided in a “fair and equitable” manner during the divorce process. The same cannot be said for couples who cohabitate – they enjoy no such legal protection.
How can you protect yourself when you decide to cohabitate with a romantic/sexual partner, sharing personal belongings, property, and other assets, like joint funds? In the state of Michigan, the best option is a cohabitation agreement.
Cohabitation in Michigan
A legal marriage automatically infers protections where joint assets acquired during the marriage are concerned. When a couple divorces, those assets will be dividing between the parties, while assets belonging to either party before the marriage may be deemed personal property (depending on the type of asset and how it is used or shared during the marriage).
Let’s just set aside for the moment that cohabitation is technically illegal in the state of Michigan, where a 1931 statute, still on the books today, states that any couple “not being married to each other, who lewdly and lasciviously associates and cohabits together” is guilty of a misdemeanor offense. Despite this outdated law (which is rarely enforced), it is permissible for cohabitants in a household to enter into a contractual agreement involving personal and joint assets.
What to Include in a Cohabitation Agreement
A cohabitation agreement could include any number of assets, from items each person brings into the household, like furniture and art, to property the couple purchases jointly, like a home or vehicle, just for example. This agreement could include provisions for investments, bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and more.
In essence, you’re recreating the property protections inherent to a marriage contract, but without the legal marriage. This agreement can be made at any time before or during the course of cohabitation, and the goal is to lay out which property will remain personal and which will be viewed as joint property, to be equally divided in the event that cohabitation should cease (i.e. the couple splits up).
Why is a Cohabitation Agreement Necessary?
Ending a relationship can be devastating. What could make it even worse is fighting over what belongs to who and how it will get split up. The benefit of a cohabitation agreement is that it establishes a legal framework for dividing assets in the event of a split, in order to avoid contention. Assets can be divided in an orderly manner, with each party enjoying the legal protections spelled out in the agreement.
Why go this route instead of simply getting married? While divorce can take months to accomplish and a judge will ultimately decide on the division of assets, a cohabitation agreement allows for a much faster and more efficient divide. For couples unsure if they want to be married, a cohabitation agreement offers an easy out, so to speak.
If you’re living with a partner and you want to protect your assets and rights, the qualified attorneys at The Gucciardo Law Firm can help. Contact us today at 248-723-5190 or online to schedule your free 30-minute consultation and learn more.
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