Rather than get married, there are many couples who simply choose to cohabitate. This decision comes with it's own upsides and downsides. Cohabitation is much easier to enter into, but isn't as easy to get out of due to legal complications. But you can avoid these by making the right decisions.
Create a Cohabitation Agreement
If you and your partner have a dispute, you will have a difficult time resolving it without a cohabitation agreement. This agreement sets rules regarding who is responsible for which responsibilities. The agreement can be something as simple as two columns that list the specific amounts that should be contributed by each party to various bills. For example, if both you and your partner wish to split groceries, you can require the contribution of a specific monetary amount to a pool that is then drawn from for grocery expenses. Consider having the agreement inspected by a family law attorney and notarized at a firm like Law Office of Diane F. Russell. Then, if your ex spouse does not contribute the agreed-upon amount, you can seek damages in small claims court.
Avoid Joint Accounts and Co-Signed Debt
Avoid joint accounts, including joint debts and joint bank accounts. Otherwise, it can be very legally complicated to determine who deserves what. When married, there are specific laws in place determining how assets should be divided which is not available to those who are cohabitating.
When making a major purchase, the individual holding the title must be the individual who is making payments. Otherwise, one partner might be stuck with payments while the other partner can leave with the asset.
Include Asset Division in Cohabitation Agreements
Come up with an agreement regarding who gets which assets for if you break up and stick to the agreement. One of the advantages of cohabitation is that you do not have to follow the legally-prescribed rules of marital asset division. The cohabitation agreement can list who receives which assets, though it will need to be continually updated.
Consider Creating a Palimony Agreement
If you are responsible for housework and child-rearing while your partner is responsible for bringing home an income you may want to enter into an agreement for palimony. This is similar to alimony. You will create a contract that your partner agrees to that determines how much your partner will compensate you after a break-up until a designated period has passed. While there are legal protections for cohabitating couples, they are not as robust as those provided to married couples.