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Get a cohabitation property agreement when living together

Many couples in Fort Worth, Texas, and Tarrant, Texas, live together either before getting married or instead of getting married. If they break up and decide to live apart, that can be kind of sad. If one of them takes the other's stuff, however, that can be really sad.

For that reason, many couples are pursuing an option available to them under family law called a cohabitation property agreement.

Why would anyone want a CHA?

When you and your partner lived together, you probably bought some things together. This may have included simple things, like soap, paper towels and an ABBA's Greatest Hits CD. However, it may have also included very expensive things, like a car, a condominium or a house. You want to make sure that those things are divided in a way that you will view as fair.

What is a fair division?

Each partner getting out what they paid in is a good route. For example, if one partner paid 80 percent of a shared car, they should get 80 percent of the money if that shared car is sold. If that partner wants to keep the car, he or she can pay the other partner 20 percent of what he or she would get if the car was sold to buy out his or her interest.

What should a CHA include?

It should address preexisting assets from before the period of cohabitation and affirm that those will belong to their original owners and not be subject to division when the partnership breaks up. It should also address how living expenses will be paid for during the period of cohabitation. For example, all utilities could be paid equally by both partners, or one partner could pay the phone bill while the other paid the electricity bill.

You can also decide to both pay equal amounts into a shared account, from which either can withdraw money to pay for household expenses. These understandings help to minimize arguments about money during the relationship, as well as determining who gets what when the relationship ends.

Source: FindLaw, "Cohabitation Property Rights for Unmarried Couples," accessed Feb. 13, 2018

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