If you are considering living together, there are steps you should take before signing a lease or moving any furniture to ensure you both have all information you need to avoid disagreements and misunderstandings about what you both expect and need from the relationship. In addition, taking these steps will help to protect both of you from unnecessary stress and financial loss.
Living together when you are in a romantic relationship can alter it in many ways. Having a written Cohabitation Agreement properly drafted before taking the plunge to live together is the smart thing to do. Before you move in together outline the ground rules and each of your expectations about how you will approach day to day tasks. This will ensure that the relationship has a more positive outcome and give you both a clearer picture of what to expect, thus making a successful, healthy relationship more likely.
Here are a few things to do to help you determine what you want to include in your Cohabitation Agreement:
1. Each of You Should Prepare a List of Expenses
The list should include a statement about each of your expectations for sharing expenses, including day to day expenses. Include in your discussions: the amount you each would like to spend every month on groceries, household supplies, eating out and entertainment.
Will you share all costs related to streaming services, or will you prorate the cost based on your respective incomes?
When you need to make a purchase for an expensive item, like a sofa or major appliance, will you establish a joint bank account or joint credit card account to make these purchases? If you decide to use a credit card or obtain a loan for your major purchase, include a provision in your Cohabitation Agreement about each party’s responsibility for paying back the debt. Will each of you pay one-half of the debt in the event you decide to split up or live separately? Will the person who is keeping the (sofa, refrigerator, dishwasher) be responsible for the balance?
Consider whether you want to include a provision in your Cohabitation Agreement that will state in advance which one of you will keep the sofa or major appliance if you decide to live separately. You may need to establish a plan for paying expenses if one of you loses your job. Perhaps one of you will agree to pay more or all of the expenses on the condition that your partner will reimburse you at a later date when they become re-employed.
2. Prepare a List About Responsibilities
Discuss and prepare a list of each of your expectations for household chores, including cooking, cleaning and organization. For example, include in your discussion whether your home should be cleaned weekly, monthly or daily. If you decide to hire a cleaning person, will the cost be shared equally? Should the person who is messier pay more? If you cook a meal, should the other person be responsible for all clean-up?
3. Prepare a List About Family and Social Engagements
Discuss and prepare a list of expectations for sharing holidays, days off, and vacations. If both your family and your partner’s family live locally, it may be feasible to visit both families on the holiday. If your family lives out of town, or across the country, perhaps you need an agreement to alternate years with one another’s family. Perhaps the best solution is to celebrate holidays separately and wait until you reunite to exchange gifts.
4. Get the Assistance of a Qualified Therapist
Consider meeting with a licensed therapist to assist you to resolve any differences or issues for which you are unable to agree. The cost of a therapist will outweigh the harm to your relationship caused by built up resentment when you and your partner reach impasses about issues that are important to you. It is important to discuss all issues, including your expectations about sex and its frequency, spending money, saving money and sharing responsibilities.
5. Prepare Your Cohabitation Agreement With the Help of an Attorney
Hire an attorney to help you draft your Cohabitation Agreement. Under California law, parties who live together may unintentionally enter into implied contracts (Agreements that are created based on the parties’ actions) or oral (verbal) contracts that create legal obligations that may not be intended by one of the parties. It is important to put any important agreements in writing, signed by both parties. A well drafted Cohabitation Agreement will ensure that the rights of both parties are protected and spelled out. The average cost for preparation is between $500.00 and $5,000.00 depending on the complexity of your agreement. The cost of the Agreement will more than pay for itself because you will avoid misunderstandings about money, debts and responsibilities in the relationship. You will also gain a clearer understanding of what your partner’s expectations are for living together and increase the probability of your relationship’s long-term health and success.