How can family law protect cohabitating partners in separation? | Lane & Lane, LLC
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How can family law protect cohabitating partners in separation?

More and more couples in New Jersey choose to live together rather than to get married. The dynamics of each couple are unique, and cohabitation may be the best option for them. However, in the event of a breakup, existing family law may not provide the same level of protection for unmarried partners in property division as it does for those who are legally married.

For that reason, it may be wise for cohabitating couples to sign agreements similar to prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. The separation between a well-known actor, Lee Marvin, and his partner after several years of living together may provide valuable lessons. The woman claimed an equal share of the assets they accumulated during their years of cohabitation. She maintained they had a verbal agreement by which her contribution to the relationship included being a companion, housekeeper, homemaker and cook.

During the initial hearing, the court found for Marvin, but upon appeal, the court agreed with the partner. However, this was only a hearing to determine whether contracts between cohabitating individuals deserve as much consideration as those between married spouses -- even if the agreements are verbal. Once the court acknowledged that non-documented agreements might be enforceable, it went ahead and declared that the contract between Lee Marvin and his ex-partner did not include his promise to share any property or provide support in the event of a separation.

New Jersey couples who choose not to get married may find comfort in learning that they can protect their legal rights in the property division process. A consultation with an experienced family law attorney can provide answers to all the questions. A lawyer can assist in the drafting of an enforceable cohabitation agreement that can specify the expectations of both parties. Being proactive in signing such an agreement can avoid one party having to bear an unexpected financial burden when a relationship ends.

Source: FindLaw, "Lessons Learned the Hard Way: Cohabitation and the Law", Accessed on Nov. 11, 2016

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