Saturday, September 6, 2008

Cohabitation: What Do Ireland and Indiana Have in Common?

Increasing numbers of couples living together and no legal protection for them. The following quotes from The Irish Independent's If we had married, everything would have been split... but now I have no protection at all'.

Everyone may be doing it -- but not everyone is doing it successfully. Contrary to popular opinion there is no such thing as a 'common law' husband or wife, and cohabiting couples do not currently have any legal protection. "Common law is a phrase we often hear, but there's no such thing, it's a misnomer," says Hilary Coveney, a family law specialist with Matheson Ormsby Prentice. "You have no marriage-like rights if you are not married, and cohabitants do not have any legal or other protection. Statistically, there are an increasing number of couples cohabiting, so there are also an increasing number of difficulties arising."

It appears the Irish, like Hoosiers, can execute a cohabitation agreement:
Presuming that most of us haven't been lavished with gifts to the value of a small fortune, is cohabiting legally advisable? Julian Deale thinks not. "We repeatedly hear cases, for example, where an unmarried couple buy a house together. Suppose the girl's father gives €50,000 towards the purchase of the house, then they break up and the girl wants that €50,000 back, but there's nothing in writing. "I'd advise people going into a situation like that to execute a document stating that one party is providing a loan that should be repaid when the house is sold -- but people don't want to ask the person with whom they're about to move in to start signing documents. They're afraid it indicates a lack of trust."
Sounds like Irish solicitors face the same problems of convincing clients that these agreements are more than a wise move. With a few changes in terms, the following could be describing all too many people in Indiana:

Aine (name has been changed) has recently split up with her partner who she lived with for seven years. They bought an apartment together, but Aine's name was not on the deed as she had just finished college and, according to the bank, was not a party to the loan.

"We had, stupidly, a very relaxed arrangement. He paid the mortgage and I paid for the food and bills. I'd give him cash as well to make up my half, or just pay for things day to day. We had signed an agreement that the place would be split 50/50 if anything happened, but now he's disputing that and saying that I didn't pay towards the mortgage. I've no evidence of the money I gave him. If we had married, everything would have been split, but now I've no protection at all."

If you are living together in Indiana, follow these steps:

  1. Get a cohabitation agreement
  2. Make sure it is reviewed by a lawyer (give me a call, if you do not have a lawyer).
  3. Keep to the agreement.

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