Protecting rights of domestic partners

While the battle for marriage equality continues across the country, Texas does not currently permit marriage between individuals of the same sex. Currently, Travis County is the only county in Texas that provides benefits to domestic partners. However, same-sex couples who decide to cohabit may benefit from entering into a cohabitation agreement.

A cohabitation agreement can help establish rules regarding property division in case the couple later breaks up. Rather than focusing on their constitutional rights, these agreements operate more as a roommate agreement and general contract. Such an agreement may list the property that each person brought into the shared home and what property will be given to each party upon separation.

In addition to listing information about property, this agreement may also indicate how a couple plans to share income and expenses. It may discuss how the parties handle bank accounts, credit cards and insurance policies.

This particular type of agreement is particularly important if two individuals purchase real property together. The cohabitation agreement should list how the property will be deeded. For example, if there is a deed that includes the language “joint tenants with right of survivorship,” the other partner automatically receives the entire house upon the other’s death. However, if the two partners share the house as “tenants in common,” the deceased person’s share goes to another party according to a will or the rules of intestacy. Additionally, the agreement should list the percentage of the property that each party owns and designate how transfers can be made. Finally, the cohabitation agreement should include a provision regarding how the real property will be dealt with upon a termination of the parties’ relationship.

If an individual would like to create a cohabitation agreement, he or she may decide to consult a family law lawyer. This individual may be able to draft an agreement based on current law and contract interpretation principles.

Source: Findlaw, “Domestic Partnerships“, October 07, 2014