It’s becoming increasingly common for couples in Washington to live together without getting married legally. Unfortunately, this can make for some difficulties should the couples decide to go separate ways later on.

How can you protect yourself from the financial and legal risks that cohabitating so often poses? In the state of Washington, an increasingly popular option has been to enter into a cohabitation agreement.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement in WA is a legally binding contract that is drafted, agreed to, and is also recognized by courts in order to protect each party’s assets in the event the relationship ends down the line.

Like a prenuptial agreement, the idea is not to foreshadow doom and gloom, but to serve as an effective way to protect yourself in case something happens later on.

Cohabitation Agreements Are Beneficial for More than Just Asset Protection

Most people view cohabitation agreements as just a way to protect two parties’ assets during a break up. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Similar to prenuptial agreements, these contracts can address a number of issues, including:

  • The household duties and rights of each party
  • How various types of property will be acquired, managed, controlled, or disposed of
  • How separate and joint bank accounts will be divided
  • How the couple’s children will be financially supported
  • How responsibility for expenses will be shared
  • Whether one party will be required to support the other in the event of a split up
  • Liability for debts
  • The fate of a co-owned home in the event of separation

The terms of cohabitation agreements in WA will vary depending on the couple’s circumstances. So if you and your partner are considering entering into this type of agreement, it is vital to speak with a family law attorney before doing so.

Enforcement

As long as there are disclosures included in the agreement, and the concerned parties have signed and notarized it, then the contract becomes enforceable in a court of law.

Like marital and prenuptial agreements, the best way to modify a cohabitation agreement in an enforceable manner is for you and your partner to agree to a change in writing. You can also draft a new document and include a disclosure that the new cohabitation agreement renders the first one null and void.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cohabitation Agreements in WA

Do cohabiting couples have the same rights as married people?

In Washington State, it does not matter how long two people have lived together, unless they are legally married, they are given none of the legal protections of married couples.

When should I draw up a cohabitation agreement?

At any time before you move in with a partner or when you have been living together for many years. The agreement should be renewed periodically, especially where there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as the birth of a child.

Can we use an informal cohabitation agreement or does it have to be a legal document?

An informal cohabitation agreement may not be legally enforceable in WA. Some aspects may also need to be supported by legal documentation: for instance, to ensure that your partner inherits in the event of your death.

Is there alimony or spousal support for unmarried couples that separate?

No. In Washington State, unmarried or cohabiting couples aren’t legally entitled to alimony payments upon separation. The only way for spousal support payments to be valid is if the two of you agree to it in a cohabitation agreement.

Get in Touch With a Family Lawyer Today!

Whether you want to have a legally binding cohabitation agreement drawn up or have questions about this type of agreement, you need to speak with a high-caliber family law attorney the soonest. Get in touch with us at Petrelli Previtera, LLC by calling (215) 201-4080 and book a consultation today. We specialize in all areas of family law, including cohabitation agreements, and we can’t wait to bring clarity out of your chaos.