Carolann M. Aschoff, P.C.

Protect your rights and finances before moving in with a partner

Some couples in New Jersey and elsewhere choose to move in together rather than to commit to a marriage. Authorities suggest careful consideration along with honest discussions before rushing into cohabitation. Some say money is the most cited cause for divorce, and why would it be any different for couples living together?

If you and your partner plan to cohabitate, you may both benefit from discussing budgets, the financial goals you both have and how you will manage your finances with those objectives in mind. You may not agree on everything, but communication and compromise can go a long way.

Here are some matters you can discuss:

Keep in mind that every person is unique, and so are their spending habits and approaches to money. The goal will be to find common ground on the following:

  • Full Disclosure: Matters to discuss may include each partner's assets, income, savings and debt. Some suggest you and your partner share credit reports before you take the step -- and revisit them every year that you remain together.
  • Sharing a home: Discuss how you will share the mortgage or rental payments. If you have to go out and find a place, it may be wise to choose somewhere that is affordable when you apportion the housing costs according to your respective incomes. Choose whether utilities and the lease will be in both names, and plan for what will happen if the relationship ends.
  • Split expenses: Talk about how you will share household expenses. There will be rent, groceries, utilities and more to pay. Some couples open a shared bank account into which they deposit a portion of each partner's income for household expenses. This could also serve to cover the costs if a car breaks down or if you start a family. You might even choose to open an additional bank account to save for the financial goals you discussed earlier.
  • Debt: Financial advisors suggest cohabiting couples keep their debts separate. Merging debt, such as student loans, credit card debt and more, may not be in your best interests because your partner's debt can affect your credit score, and you may be responsible for the debt he or she brought into the relationship.
  • Alimony: If you receive alimony from a former spouse, that person's obligation to support you may no longer exist once you cohabitate with a new partner.
  • Define it all in writing: You and your partner will not receive some of the protection typically afforded to married couples. However, there are still legal options available for unmarried couples, and a properly crafted cohabitation agreement can protect you both. In such a contract, you can detail how you will handle the majority of your finances while living with your partner, and you can specify how you will split certain assets in the event of a break-up.

The services of a family law attorney are not just reserved for married couples. Having the support and guidance of an experienced lawyer can be a valuable asset. Not only can your attorney assist with the drafting of a legal cohabitation agreement, he or she can also provide valuable input. Also, should your relationship with your partner ever come to an end, your attorney can advocate for you and protect your rights and interests.

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