There are lots of reasons why couples don’t get married these days. Maybe you are in a same-sex relationship and can’t get married in the State of Michigan. Or maybe you and your partner would have to pay more in taxes or have credit problems if you were to tie the knot. Whatever your reasons, if you are going to live with someone but not get married you should consider signing a Domestic Agreement.
A Domestic Agreement serves three very important functions:
- It is a promise between you and your partner to provide mutual support.
- It outlines how property will be owned and bills will be paid while you are together.
- It governs what happens if you and your partner ever decide to move on.
As a contract for mutual support, it provides a level of commitment that can reassure your partner without locking you in “until death do you part.” It promises that as long as you both are together you will provide for him, and he will provide for you depending on your circumstances.
The Domestic Agreement also clarifies who owns what during the relationship. If you owned the home before she moved in, then you may not want her claiming an interest in it on her taxes. It also is a promise for each person to pull their own weight in the relationship. It can cover how bills will be paid, from which accounts, and how much each partner is expected to contribute. In this sense, think of a Domestic Agreement as an operating agreement for your household company.
Finally, the Domestic Agreement sets the ground rules in the event you and he ever decide to split up. In this way, a Domestic Agreement behaves much like a prenuptial agreement to a marriage. But since you are not getting married, your dissolution will be resolved by a civil judge instead of a family court judge, and will be based on whatever contract the court can imply by your behavior. The Domestic Agreement sets out the terms of that contract explicitly and takes the mystery out of the arrangement for the civil court judge. It outlines who takes what personal property, how bank accounts should be distributed, and how to deal with the home you have both lived in for years.
A Domestic Agreement is the single best way to control what happens to your assets during and after a long term cohabiting relationship. If for any reason you and your partner decide not to get married, talk to a family attorney to make your commitment clear and to take control of what happens if the relationship ends.