39 percent [of divorce lawyers] report an increase in the number of cohabitation agreements that protect property and other assets for partners living outside the perimeters of legally recognized marriages.
Rare in some areas of the country as recently as 15 or 20 years ago, such contracts are coming into their own, said Ken Altshuler, the group's president-elect in Portland, Maine. "They're really on the cutting edge of relationships today as more people move in together." The elite organization of divorce lawyers strongly advises cohabitation agreements for unmarried heterosexual couples along with same-sex partners whose unions are not legally recognized, especially when children are adopted by one but not both partners.
"To go to court to enforce your rights is just very expensive," said Susan Bender, a Manhattan lawyer who routinely handles cohabitation agreements for same-sex couples.
"Otherwise there's litigation, the hiring of an attorney," she said. "It's dispiriting to young couples to come into my office to begin their romantic relationship with figuring out who gets the IRA, but it makes so much sense." . . . cohabitation agreements can protect an unmarried person's stake in jointly owned property like a house or a condo and guard against seizure for payment of spousal debt.
"If we break up and there's no agreement, I don't have a claim," Viken said. "The litigation between two people who own a house together and aren't married is much more difficult than two married people who are getting divorced." About 30 percent of the attorneys who responded to the survey said a majority of cohabitation agreements they draw up are for same-sex couples. With only a handful of states recognizing gay marriage, the agreements can spell out legal rights both in and out of state.
Colorado doesn't recognize gay marriage and while the Colorado General Assembly is considering a civil unions bill this session, which I support, it doesn't have one yet.
I tend to call them domestic partnership agreements, but I prepare them and taught financial planners about the circumstances when they are useful and the terms they should contain when I was a professor.