Monday, June 22, 2009

A Cohabitation Outline

The Bradenton Herald published Living together that has an excellent checklist for those of you thinking of living together.

"1. Get a Cohabitation Agreement. Do your research. If you can afford it, go to a lawyer. If you can’t, there are a number of good books on the subject, and standard forms you can download for free online. You can then amend them to suit your particular circumstances."

2. Decide what your cohabitation agreement will cover. Make sure it covers the three biggies:

A. Assets. Are you sharing, or are they separate? What happens when one party contributes money or labor to an asset?

B. Support. Does either party have an obligation to support the other?

C. Is either party obligated to pay the other for services?

3. Know Thy Partner. Investigate. Does your partner have a good financial track record and good credit? It may sound basic, but you need to know. You can ask for documents up front, or you can do a little digging around online. After all, trust works both ways.

4. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket. Don’t be in a hurry to go into business with your partner, or buy a house, if you don’t have to. Moving in together is a big change. It’s wise to let the relationship find its footing for six months to a year before making any other major decisions.

5. Be realistic. The divorce rate is almost 50 percent, and the failure of cohabitation relationships is even higher. “Be guided by the reality that it may not work out,” one lawyer suggests. “And if you’re lucky, you won’t need Plan B.”

6. Keep Your Own Place. Not very romantic, and not economically feasible for many, but if it is, it’s a great option. Consider renting or subletting the place you live in now. It’s a way of easing the transition into living together, and is especially worthwhile if you have kids who might be deeply affected if the relationship doesn’t work out.

7. If You Have a High Net Worth. Attorneys say you have an extra incentive to maintain good boundaries and get it all in writing. At the very least — keep all your finances separate, and make it clear that cohabitating is not a promise of lifetime support.

8. If You’ve Been Promised Financial Support. It doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t have it on paper. Get it in writing. And don’t move in until you do.

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