"I never felt like my case wasn't being tended to...Her compassion is life-changing when going through a divorce".
B.P. (Yelp)

Santa Barbara Cohabitation Agreement Attorney

Though common law marriages in the United States can still be contracted in nine states, California is NOT one of them. Despite a high degree of misconceptions on this point, California does not recognize “common law marriage” as a legal union which can result from a couple living together, no matter how long the duration.

Clients who have created significant wealth and perhaps survived a difficult divorce may promise never to marry again - not realizing that the decision to live with a partner can also create significant risk to financial independence. If you have been in a long-term cohabiting relationship, or plan to enter into one, it is extremely important you understand your rights or lack thereof under the law, and the financial and legal risks you take in joining your life with that of your romantic partner.

Santa Barbara Cohabitation Agreement Attorney

If a couple, whether same sex or not, merely wish to live together, attorney Coles at the Law Office of Channe G. Coles, highly recommends that they enter into a cohabitation agreement and legally define for themselves a clear, mutual roadmap of their commitments to each other, both in the short and long-term. That way, if the relationship ends, the parties do not have expensive fights about who promised what to whom, and potentially expose one or the other to an action commonly known as a “Marvin” action. 

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a private contractual alternative to marriage for two people who have integrated their residence, property, and daily lives. A cohabitation agreement is a private contract between cohabitants that tries to establish the same type of rights and obligations that married people obtain by custom, statute, and agreement. Cohabitation agreements can address almost any issue that arises during cohabitation or separation, except for issues of custody, child support, or access to children.

California courts will recognize contracts between two people, as long as sex is not a provision (such a contract is illegal). Cohabitation can be defined as a relationship involving a heterosexual or homosexual couple who live in the same household and who mutually assume those rights, duties, and obligations that are typically manifested by a married couple, including sexual relations. While a cohabitation relationship may resemble a marriage, it does not legally qualify as a ceremonial, common law, or putative marriage. Hence, a cohabitant is legally single.

What is a “Marvin” action?

In 1976, the California Supreme court rendered a landmark decision in Marvin v. Marvin, where the concept of "palimony" was created (i.e. support payments for unmarried cohabitants who split up.) Actor Lee Marvin was romantically involved with a woman named Michelle Triola for many years, until the relationship came to an end. In a media-charged case, Ms. Triola sued Mr. Marvin for support based upon an agreement they had to pool all that they had. The California Supreme Court specifically held:

 “In summary, we base our opinion on the principle that adults who voluntarily live together and engage in sexual relations are nonetheless as competent as any other person to contract respecting their earnings and property rights.

Of course, they cannot lawfully contract to pay for the performance of sexual services, for such a contract is in essence, an agreement for prostitution and unlawful for that reason. But they may agree to pool their earnings and to hold all property acquired during the relationship in accord with the law governing community property; conversely they may agree that each partner’s earnings and the property acquired from those earnings remains the separate property of the earning partner.

So long as the agreement does not rest upon illicit meretricious consideration, the parties may order their economic affairs as they choose, and no policy precludes the courts from enforcing such agreements.”

Santa Barbara Cohabitation Agreement Attorney

One way attorney Coles recommends her clients avoid the difficulties of a Marvin action is by entering into a comprehensive cohabitation agreement. She can help you address and make the right decisions regarding the major areas of concern in drafting a cohabitation agreement such as identifying goals, deciding on independent representation or mediation, making prior financial disclosures, subsequent modifications, and help make sure the agreement reached is thorough, fair, and enforceable.

Cohabitation Agreements are not Premarital Agreements

It is important to remember that cohabitation agreements are generally governed by contract principles, which require the elements of: agreement (or a “meeting of the minds”), offer, acceptance, consideration, and, if in writing, reasonably certain terms for a court to enforce. After a marriage, a cohabitation agreement will not act as your premarital agreement. If you have a cohabitation agreement and are planning on getting married, it is very important that you and your fiance enter into a premarital agreement which becomes binding upon the marriage of the parties.

With more people choosing to not enter (or reenter) into marriage, cohabiting (whether heterosexual or homosexual) is no longer an unusual event. Many couples are now choosing to live together as an alternative to marriage. Whether the agreement is referred to as the "UK" (unmarried contract), pre-partnership agreement, domestic partnership agreement, pre-union agreement, living-together agreement, or cohabitation agreement, the Law Office of Channe G. Coles takes seriously the duty to provide a strong measure of certainty in the drafting of such an agreement. 

Staying Abreast of Changing Laws

Along with the definition of marriage, the law on cohabitation agreements — and nonmarried couples — is changing in California. At the Law Office of Channe G. Coles, we keep up-to-date on the most recent events and changes in the law which can affect your rights and responsibilities. Those with cohabitation agreements for their unmarried status or domestic partnerships who then wish to marry may need assistance in converting their prior agreements to a valid pre- or post-marital agreement.

To speak to an attorney at the Law Office of Channe G. Coles about a cohabitation agreement in Santa Barbara County, please visit us online at www.ccsblaw.com or call us at (805) 617-4618 for a free confidential consultation.

Call Today for a Free Consultation