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Springfield Divorce Attorneys > Blog > Family > What Are Your Rights When You Cohabitate?

What Are Your Rights When You Cohabitate?


These days there’s very little, if any stigma associated with couples choosing to live together prior to or instead of marrying.  So a growing number of couples are doing just that, begging the question, what legal rights do these individuals have in the event of a break-up?  Particularly when children are involved, it seems legal protections must necessarily be in place.

What About Common Law Marriages? 

The fact of the matter is that in Missouri common law marriages are not recognized.  No matter how long a couple may have lived together, without a marriage license and authorized solemnization of the union, couples are still single.

Property Rights in a Split 

The law is next to silent on the issue of property in this situation. In a divorce, the court has rules regarding marital and non-marital property. Non-marital property—that which was owned by one individual prior to the marriage—belongs to that individual after a marriage is dissolved, while marital property is split up between the two parties.  When couples simply cohabitate, there is no marital property for which the court must concern itself.  Alimony, or spousal support, is also not really addressed by Missouri law, although in some cases individuals may be reimbursed for work done to benefit the home or the couple overall.

Child Custody and Visitation 

Children, on the other hand, are very much in focus by the courts when a cohabiting couple splits up. Parents have rights and responsibilities with regard to their children, and the court is there to ensure the interests of the child are protected. The court must approve a parenting plan that addresses the living circumstances and visitation, as well as child support.

How Can You Protect Yourself? 

Anyone who goes through a divorce can testify to the fact that the property split requires each party to give up some of what they’d like to keep.  When a cohabiting couple decides to call it quits, the property division could be very one-sided if one partner holds more clout in the relationship.  So is there anything that can be done to ensure a more equitable distribution of assets? In fact, a cohabitation agreement may be just what you’re looking for.

A Cohabitation Agreement 

It is possible to write up a legal contract that basically establishes your rights and duties in relation to property and earnings during the time you live together. Such agreements can also address issues like estate planning and medical decision-making.

Discussing Tough Issues 

Are conversations about property division or medical decisions romantic?  Certainly not!  Nonetheless,  they can help you to make important decisions that will reduce anxieties for both partners in the event you decide to split later on.  At Courtney & Mills, our Springfield family lawyers can facilitate these discussions in a professional and efficient manner. Schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.



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