Non-marital cohabitation agreements have been on the rise throughout the last few decades as couples increasingly delay or forego marriage, and as unmarried couples have begun cohabiting more frequently. Prior to 2015, cohabitation agreements were also one of the few ways that same-sex couples could obtain legal recognition in Texas. These cohabitation agreements, whether entered into in Texas or out-of-state, allowed same-sex couples to define the parameters of their relationships in a time when same-sex marriage was not legally recognized. Cohabitation agreements performed the same function for unmarried opposite-sex couples, who wished to determine important issues such as payment of bills and expenses, joint ownership of property, and operation of jointly-held business entities. As the number of unmarried cohabiting couples is increasing in Texas and across the nation, the popularity and importance of cohabitation agreements is rising, too.
Surprisingly, the Texas Family Code (which controls marital and non-marital cohabitation agreements) has little to say about cohabitation agreements. The sole provision addressing cohabitation agreements under Texas law states that “a promise or agreement made on consideration of marriage or nonmarital conjugal cohabitation is not enforceable unless the promise or agreement or a memorandum of the promise or agreement is in writing and signed by the person obligated by the promise or agreement” (emphasis added). Unfortunately, this leaves more questions than answers for many Texas couples, who want to know what is and is not permitted in a Texas cohabitation agreement. One of the most salient concerns for unmarried couples seeking to enter into a cohabitation agreement is whether the terms of the cohabitation agreement violate public policy, thus rendering the cohabitation agreement void. This is particularly concerning for unmarried couples in Texas, where public policy prevents unmarried couples from enjoying many of the benefits of marriage.
Cohabitation agreements are also important for those engaged in “meretricious” relationships – sexual relationships between two unmarried parties that do not meet the requirements of a ceremonial marriage or a common-law marriage. In Texas, a meretricious partner is not entitled to any of the benefits of a spouse, including a “just and right” division of property accumulated during the relationship. However, there is a fine line between a meretricious relationship and a common-law marriage, the latter of which entitles a partner to a just and right division of marital property. With a cohabitation agreement, Texas couples can define the parameters of their relationship and avoid the legal ramifications of a common-law marriage and the financial liability that accompanies it.
No matter the reason for entering into a cohabitation agreement, it is imperative that you discuss the cohabitation agreement with an experienced family-law attorney who can help you navigate the ins and outs of Texas cohabitation agreement law. The family-law attorneys at McClure Law Group have invaluable experience drafting cohabitation agreements and can help draft an iron-clad cohabitation agreement that protects you from any unintended consequences that result from living with your significant other. For more information about what you can do to protect yourself, your relationship, and your assets, please call (214) 692-8200 to consult with an experienced attorney at McClure Law Group, PC.