Welcome to the Kazi Law Firm! We are a boutique law firm steeped in Texas tradition personifying the warmth and congeniality consistent with southern hospitality. We believe in preserving integrity and professionalism with true Texan charm, staying true to our roots, while providing essential, affordable legal services to all. Located just north of Dallas, Texas in the rapidly growing suburb of Frisco; the Kazi Law Firm concentrates on contracts drafting and review, immigration law, will & estates, real estate law, landlord, tenant, mediation, and general business law needs.
At the firm, we are frequently asked what the difference between cohabitation and marriage is, specifically in terms of financial responsibilities per partner. I think it’s an interesting topic that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Most often people draw the line between married or unmarried. However, in today’s age, there are other living arrangements that are more complex and appear in the “gray” area of the law.
Let’s talk about what cohabitation is defined as and how it differs from marriage under the law. Simply stated, cohabitation is an agreement whereby unmarried individuals have decided to live together in an intimate relationship. We all know people who are romantically involved with another, but vehemently oppose the concept of marriage. Some live with their significant other for years without the label of “married” or the titles of “husband and wife.”
Cohabitation vs. Marriage
Marriage is a legally binding relationship that involves a license that is applied for, completed, and returned to the state after the nuptials. If the couple decides to go their separate ways, they must undergo a separation or a divorce. In many states, separation and divorce are separate legal processes. In Texas, we do not recognize legal separation.
However, when a couple breaks up, the assets and debts must be divided accordingly. How this is done depends on several factors including whether the state is a community property state, what assets or debts each person brought into the marriage, assets, and debts were established during the marriage, and what the two parties can agree upon in terms of dividing those assets and debts. There may also be a legal obligation for spousal support.
On the other hand, cohabitation is not a legally binding relationship in the same way as marriage. The unmarried partners live together. They may bring in separate debts and assets into the relationship. They may acquire debts and assets. One person may work and another person may stay home. Yet, if the couple decides to part ways, there is no official process to end the arrangement. The couple may elect to sue one another in small claims court over assets and debts. There is no legal requirement for support of the partner who may have stayed home.
Marriage and cohabitation do have one thing in common: custody of minor children. If there is no custody agreement in place by the court, shared biological children between the two parties have equal rights to the child or children. Child custody, visitation, and support should be established regardless of whether you are getting a divorce or ending a cohabitation. With that being said, the father of any child born in a marriage has the legal presumption of paternity. Whereas, if the parents are not married (although they live together), the father must establish paternity through legal proceedings or a DNA test.
Additionally, married couples have legal rights if one partner dies. The surviving spouse usually inherits the belongings of the spouse who dies. When people cohabitate, they do not automatically receive benefits of any kind (including inheritance) if their partner dies. However, either partner may leave property and/or assets to the other partner in a Will.
If you decide to live with your partner for an extended period of time without the intention of marrying that person, it is recommended that you have an attorney draft a cohabitation agreement to protect both partners’ interests. This document outlines responsibilities of each person during the course of the relationship. With a 50% chance that your relationship will end, having a cohabitation agreement can make the break up easier and more amicable.
I built my law practice on the premise of being a life raft in a sea of sharks. I want to be an advocate for those that have been wronged and are too intimidated to seek help. My firm is here to explore your options, guide you through your legal journey, and give you that safe space to ask questions! There’s no such thing as a stupid question…Only the ones you don’t ask. So, my question to my clients is not “do you have any questions?” But rather “what questions do you have?”
As always, the Kazi Law Firm is standing by to help you in your time of need. Don’t hesitate to contact us today. We specialize in real estate law, landlord-tenant disputes, immigration, and wills & estate planning. Family is at the core of our practice. Just as we treat our family with respect and understanding, we treat yours. Come join the Kazi Law Firm family today!
Why swim alone in shark-infested waters when you don’t need to?