Cohabitation Agreements in Ohio: An Overview

While marriage automatically confers certain rights on each partner, those couples who cohabitate are not automatically given any rights, no matter the length of their relationship. How do you protect your rights when you are in this type of partnership? By entering into a Cohabitation Agreement.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement is similar to a Prenuptial Agreement. Cohabiting partners enter into such an agreement to specifically spell out their rights and responsibilities to each other, since the law will not do that for them.

While some states have laws that protect the rights of cohabitating partners, Ohio does not. It is important that if you are cohabiting with your partner, you set up a legal agreement about what can and cannot happen to your property in the event of the termination of your relationship or even your death.

Who Does a Cohabitation Agreement Protect?

Cohabitation Agreements protect the rights of each partner in areas such as property settlement, income allocation and distribution. Like a Prenuptial Agreement, a Cohabitation Agreement can be used to protect the assets of each partner. It may also include a plan for support if the relationship ends, or a waiver of such support.

Are Cohabitation Agreements Enforceable?

The agreement can include binding arbitration or mediation as the forum for resolving differences. Courts will more readily enforce a written Cohabitation Agreement than an oral promise made by one partner to another.

There is no implied contractual relationship between partners who live together – this means that property is not automatically divided as in a divorce. While Ohio does not require written Cohabitation Agreements, it is nearly impossible to enforce oral agreements in court.

Is a Cohabitation Agreement Necessary?

Ohio law has no laws that protect cohabiting partners. There is no common law that protects cohabiting partners. While it is not strictly necessary to have a Cohabitation Agreement for you and your partner, it will make your lives easier. Cohabitation Agreements can be written for heterosexual and homosexual partnerships. A Cohabitation Agreement can set out your rights and responsibilities toward each other during the relationship and after.

Because unmarried partners are not afforded the same rights under the law as married people, the law treats them differently. If a couple has been married for three or four years, and one spouse dies, the other will probably receive property, insurance and death benefits and other property from the deceased’s estate. However, even if an unmarried couple has lived together for over 30 years, the death of one partner will not guarantee any property benefits to the surviving partner.

What Should Be Included in a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement should clearly set out each partner’s assets and liabilities. It should also include the income of each partner. The agreement should explain how the property brought into the relationship and the property obtained during the relationship will be disposed of if the relationship ends.

There must be complete disclosure, and the agreement must be entered into without duress, undue influence or fraud.

Who Should Draft a Cohabitation Agreement?

Similar to a Prenuptial Agreement, a Cohabitation Agreement should be drafted clearly. This is best done when each party is represented by his or her own counsel. Because there is no law setting out specifics, negotiating a Cohabitation Agreement requires a great deal of skill by an experienced attorney in order to protect your rights and make assurances for your future.

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A knowledgeable attorney is your best asset in drafting a Cohabitation Agreement. Me and my firm will work with you to ensure that your rights are protected and your future is secure.

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