Cohabitation: 13 Tips to Consider When Living Together, Sharing Expenses

Millions of couples are living together“ and breaking up. And there are few laws in place to accommodate the division of assets when a non-married couple separates. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there are eleven million unmarried people living together.

Attorneys often recommend that couples who are living together enter into cohabitation agreements to make the break-up, should it ever happen, go more smoothly. The best plan of action in forming a legally binding cohabitation agreement is to seek advice from an attorney in your area. He or she will be able to discuss all of the relevant elements in a cohabitation agreement, and how to develop a contract that conforms to state statutes.

“Hiring an attorney to draw up a cohabitation agreement can be expensive,” said Jared Laskin, whose private legal practice in California mainly focuses on legal problems between unmarried couples. “But it’s important if the partners have a lot of assets… It’s definitely worth the money for that protection,” Laskin said.


1. How will you divide the assets in the case of a death or break-up?

2. Will one partner be compensated for his or her role as a caretaker for the home and family?

3. Can each partner make medical decisions for the other?

4. Are assets collected before the relationship fair game in a settlement, should the relationship end?

5. If there are children in the relationship, how will custody be decided?

6. Do both parents have equal parenting rights, even if one person is not the biological parent?

7. In whose name is the home? If both partners are not listed on the deed, does the unlisted partner have any right to the value of the home?

8. If the home increases in value during the course of the relationship, will both parties be eligible to reap the benefits?

9. How are the assets within the relationship divided during the course of the relationship? Who pays for what? How will monthly bills be divided between the partners?

10. How will the partners divide, if at all, any gifts, bequests or inheritances they may receive during the course of the relationship?

11. Will one person be eligible for alimony, or financial support, if the relationship ends?

12. Will partners share in profits made in retirement accounts?

13. How long will the cohabitation agreement last?

About the authorMichele Bush Kimball has a Ph.D. in mass communication with a specialization in media law. She has spent almost 15 years in the field of journalism, and she teaches at American University in Washington, D.C. She recently won a national research award for her work.She can be reached at