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Cohabitation Agreements for Unmarried Couples in Virginia

By: John Whitbeck

[02.12.2021]

When a married couple ends their relationship, there are legal rights both parties have in regards to separating finances and assets. The law in Virginia follows the theory of equitable distribution, which means each spouse will have a fair share of the assets and property. However, what happens if you are not married and have assets and finances that you’ve accumulated during your relationship?   

Unfortunately, Virginia law offers no real protection similar to what married couples receive, even if you lived together for years and commingling accounts. This could have very negative consequences for couples who have opted not to marry.    

So, what does an unmarried couple do to protect themselves in the event of a divorce? You want a cohabitation agreement. Hiring a Virginia family law attorney can be beneficial in assisting with this process. 

Why Cohabitation Agreements are Important    

When you’re younger and have little to no assets, a cohabitation agreement may not seem necessary. If you split up now, there would be no need to divide assets and shared property. However, once you get older and start to make more expensive purchases and your separate savings accounts become one, a split could be financially devastating.    

Another example is where you have a couple who has a child together. Once the child is born, one party decides to quit their job to take care of the child. Ten years later, your partner opts to end the relationship. If you were married, Virginia’s laws would provide for financial assistance through spousal support, but those laws don’t apply to unmarried couples.    

Cohabitation agreements can also help you save money by eliminating the need for long, drawn-out legal battles. Because local laws don’t protect you, you will have to find other avenues to sue, and some civil actions can get tied up in the courts for years.  If you are currently cohabitating or planning to take that next step, speaking with a Virginia family law attorney can help you consider the potential financial implications of cohabitation.

What Cohabitation Agreements Cover  

Cohabitation agreements can address a variety of important topics. Some of these include:    

  • What happens to your home upon separation;    
  • How do you want to divide shared assets in the event of a separation;    
  • How will debts be handled and divided during a separation;  
  • How will retirement accounts be divided during a separation;   
  • What property will be shared, and what will remain as individual property and remain the sole possession of one person;    
  • Who will handle specific payments like vehicle payments or a mortgage; and    
  • Will there be any payments, like the equivalent of alimony, to be made.   

If you already have an asset portfolio, you may want to consider a cohabitation agreement now. To learn how our team can help, contact WhitbeckBennett by calling 800-516-3964 or by emailing clientservices@wblaws.com.

Related: Family Law

John Whitbeck

John Whitbeck

Partner

John C. Whitbeck, Jr. is the founder of WhitbeckBennett. His practice focuses on family law, special education law, and mental health law. He regularly practices in several jurisdictions in the Northern Virginia area. He has also been certified as an expert witness in litigation.

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