Appellate Court Ruling Underscores the Importance of Cohabitation Agreements

 Posted on November 14, 2016 in Cohabitation

Kane County family law attorneysAcross the country, more and more couples are delaying marriage in favor of cohabitation arrangements. Rather than tying the knot in a formal ceremony, couples are moving in together and sharing a household. While there is some indication that this social evolution is actually decreasing the divorce rate in certain demographic groups, there are certain dangers that could impact a cohabitating couple regarding property rights and other considerations. For one Cook County couple, the dangers went unrecognized for many years, arising only once the couple got married and, subsequently, divorced.

In re Marriage of Allen

Following a marriage that lasted only seven months, a couple in Cook County cross-petitioned for divorce citing irreconcilable differences. Just as the divorce was about to go to trial, the wife filed a motion for the trial court to consider the previous 13 years of cohabitation as, essentially, part of the marriage. As the basis of her argument, the wife pointed to an Illinois Supreme Court ruling in Blumenthal v. Brewer allowing certain common-law relief for a party in a same-sex relationship prior to the law that allowed same-sex couples to marry in Illinois. The wife in Allen asked for similar common law considerations, including a portion of the property her partner had acquired during their cohabitation but before their marriage.

The trial court, however, denied the wife’s motion, a ruling that was upheld by the appeals court. Both courts determined that the principles applied in Blumenthal did not apply to her situation because the parties in Allen could legally have gotten married at any time during their relationship. Common law marriages are not considered valid in Illinois, and while Blumenthal did allow some common law considerations, the relationship was not deemed a common law marriage.

Cohabitation Agreements

With the advantage of hindsight, the parties in Allen would have been well-served with a cohabitation agreement. While no contract other than a legal marriage can force the court to recognize a spousal relationship, a cohabitation agreement can provide each party with certain rights to one another’s property and assets. It can also specify each party’s obligation for debts incurred during the relationship. If, at some point, a couple who has cohabitated for an extended period of time decides to get married, a prenuptial agreement could also be helpful in protecting property rights.

To learn more a cohabitation agreements and prenuptial agreements in Illinois, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Call 630-584-4800 for a free consultation at Goostree Law Group today.






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