Living together agreements in California

Living together agreements in California are the topic of this blog post.

The great majority of couples who are unmarried but living together have never even considered, let alone actually prepared and signed, any written agreement detailing their rights and obligations to each other.  This type of agreement is known as a living together agreement and is technically known in the legal profession as a Cohabitation Agreement.

Most unmarried couples that start living together and set up a household generally have their own separate expectations regarding their finances and what their obligations to each other are, or will be. This lack of communication as to their expectations can lead to serious trouble down the road for the simple reason that one partner may expect that each partner will retain their own separate property, and neither of them will be obligated to support the other partner. The other partner may have exactly the opposite expectation. If they break up, these conflicting expectations can lead to tremendous distress and unhappiness in the lives of both partners.

For example, if one partner is much wealthier than the other partner, and the relationship breaks up, they may be served with a lawsuit by the other partner for what is known as "palimony", claiming that the other partner promised that they would support him or her for life, and/or that all property acquired during the relationship would belong to both partners equally.

If there is no written agreement governing their rights and obligations, the wealthier partner could be obligated to divide their property with and/or pay support to the other partner, even if a desire to avoid these obligations was the very reason they did not marry their partner in the first place.

This is particularly relevant in California which is quite possibly the most litigious State in the United States and is basically where the “palimony” word was first used in reference to the landmark California Supreme Court case of Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660, 674.

To use another common example, one partner may have quit their job to make a home for their partner, who in return promised that they would always be "taken care of," only to find when they break up that all of the assets acquired "together" are in the other partner's name, and the other partner is denying that he or she ever made any promises to their partner.

In the State of California as well as some other States, the courts generally enforce most agreements between unmarried cohabitants regarding their property. These agreements fall into three categories: implied, oral, and written. Written agreements signed by both parties, while not always perfect, are much more effective compared to oral and implied agreements in terms of providing the parties with some measure of certainty. Having a written document helps insure that the partners and not a future jury will determine exactly what the terms of the agreement are. They also provide each partner with an opportunity to communicate and clarify their expectations of each other.

To avoid any misunderstandings, both partners should discuss their expectations regarding financial matters before they move in together. When they do, they may find out that the two of them have very different understandings as to what their understanding really is.

Once both partners have talked through the issues and reached a mutual understanding, they should put that agreement in writing.

Attorneys or parties in California that would like to view a portion of a 12 page sample Cohabitation Agreement sold by the author can use the link shown below.

Sample Cohabitation Agreement by Stan Burman on Scribd


The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995 and has created over 300 sample legal documents for sale.

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Please note that the author of this blog post, Stan Burman is NOT an attorney and as such is unable to provide any specific legal advice. The author is NOT engaged in providing any legal, financial, or other professional services, and any information contained in this blog post is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.

The materials and information contained in this blog post have been prepared by Stan Burman for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained in this blog post is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any business relationship between the author and any readers. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.