Fast FAQs: Cohabitation in North Carolina

Fast FAQs: Cohabitation in North Carolina

As more couples opt to delay traditional, legal marriage, or opt out of it altogether, cohabitation has become increasingly popular. In North Carolina, there are multiple legal aspects surrounding this type of relationship.

Fast FAQs: Cohabitation in North Carolina

What is cohabitation?

Sometimes called “unmarried cohabitation,” is defined by North Carolina State law as two unmarried adults “dwelling together continuously and habitually” while maintaining a relationship that is similar to a marriage, which is “evidenced by the voluntary mutual assumption of those marital rights, duties, and obligations which are usually manifested by married people, and which include, but is not necessarily dependent on, sexual relations.” A couple who cohabitates has no legal status in North Carolina, so if their relationship comes to an end, their assets do not legally need to be divided equitably as they would during a divorce. 

Cohabitation was just made legal in North Carolina in 2005 and is not the same thing as Common Law Marriage.

Does North Carolina acknowledge Common Law Marriage?

Also known as non-ceremonial or informal marriage, Common Law Marriage typically consists of a couple living together for a designated amount of time (which varies by state) and presenting themselves as a married couple, despite not actually having been married. Couples in common law marriages typically have legal rights and protections similar to those of married couples.

North Carolina does not typically acknowledge common law marriage, only statutory marriage, regardless if the couple presents themselves as married. There is an exception, however, if the couple moved to North Carolina from a state that recognized their common law marriage, as long as the couple cohabitated while living in that state and the North Carolina State Court can establish a date the declaration of common law marriage began.

Another exception can be made if the couple establishes power of attorney for each other; this creates a legal, contractual relationship between the couple. It is possible, however, for power of attorney to be contested.

How can I protect my assets in a long-term relationship?

Because couples who cohabitate have no legal status in North Carolina, the best way to protect your assets should your relationship come to an end is through a cohabitation agreement. As the name implies, a cohabitation agreement is a legal contract between partners who cohabitate. The agreement establishes who owned what property and assets before the cohabitation began and outlines how belongings and property should be divided should the relationship end, as well as how child custody should be handled if you have any children but are unmarried. 

Because the State of North Carolina acknowledges legal contracts between couples, a cohabitation agreement can afford many of the same advantages and protections as marriage without actually having to get married. Beyond protecting your assets, a cohabitation agreement outlines how to handle things like healthcare decisions and estate planning should sickness or the death of one partner occur. 

Setting up a cohabitation agreement while things are going well in your relationship will help things to go much more smoothly should the relationship ever end and things go sour. Consider creating a cohabitation agreement with your partner if you: 

  • Own property before entering the relationship.
  • Plan to buy property with your partner while in the relationship.
  • Plan to have children with your partner outside of marriage.
  • Have an agreement that one partner will work and financially support the household, while the other partner does not.

Sidenote: cohabitation agreements aren’t just for romantic couples, although that’s how they are the most commonly used. A cohabitation agreement can be used between roommates to outline how expenses like maintenance and food, chores, and home furnishings purchased together are divided.

SeiferFlatow can help protect what’s yours

When things are going smoothly in a relationship, it can be hard to imagine that you could ever end the relationship. But if your relationship does take a turn for the worst, you’ll want to have a plan of how to proceed. Create a legally enforceable plan ahead of time to protect your assets and prevent unnecessary stress by having an attorney at SeiferFlatow help you draft a cohabitation agreement for you and your partner. Contact our office to schedule a consultation and see if a cohabitation agreement is the right fit for your relationship. 

The post Fast FAQs: Cohabitation in North Carolina appeared first on SeiferFlatow, PLLC | Charlotte Attorneys.

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