Cohabitation -- individuals living together outside marriage -- is a growing trend in America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 500,000 couples cohabited in 1970, while that the number rose to 5.5 million in 2000. Although cohabitation was illegal in many states in America in the 20th century, there are only a small number of holdouts at the time of publication. There is no prohibition against cohabitation in Tennessee. A cohabitation agreement doesn't give you the same rights as married people, but it can assist you in many ways whether you stay together or end your relationship.
Common Law Marriage
Tennessee does not recognize common law marriages. If you are living together in Tennessee, even for decades, you do not have any of the rights afforded to married people. The best way to ensure equitable treatment and safeguard you interests is to sign a cohabitation agreement because separation for an unmarried couple can be equally emotional and as financially difficult as a divorce for a married couple. Unfortunately, the rules governing divorces do not apply to unmarried persons. Cohabitation agreements, however, can provide unmarried couples with rules regarding their possible separation.
Cohabitation agreements usually deal with money issues, such as payment of debts and expenses, property distribution issues and custody issues if children are involved. But they also afford rights to couples staying together. For example, cohabitation agreements often grant powers of attorney between the parties to ensure that they can make medical and financial decisions for each other if one party is incapacitated. Generally, the parties can agree to anything they want as long as it is legal, such as custody of a pet if the couple splits up.
Most cohabitation agreements in Tennessee and other states are enforceable in court if one party violates it. If both parties willingly enter into the agreement, have it witnessed and notarized, it will generally be treated as a binding contract by the courts. If the agreement does not provide fair division of assets and debts, it may not be enforceable. In many jurisdictions, oral and implied agreements between the parties are much less likely to be enforced. Cohabitation situations that involve sexual favors in return for financial support sometimes are considered illegal and unenforceable.
Preparing An Agreement
A cohabitation agreement should be presented as a formal, written contract. If your situation presents complicated issues, such as complex matters involving property or children, it is advisable to seek the advice of an attorney. You can also use an online document preparation website to create the agreement for you.