More couples in the United States are living together sans matrimony than ever before.  With the increase in the number of living couples, has also come an increased demand for legal agreements that can determine the division of assets and other matters if a cohabiting couple should break up.

In a survey of divorce lawyers by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, close to 40 percent of the lawyers said that they had seen an increase in the number of couples choosing to sign cohabitation agreements.  About 50% of the lawyers had also seen an increase in the number of legal conflicts involving unmarried couples over the past 5 years.

Additionally, many children are now born to cohabiting couples. According to a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2006 and 2010, approximately 22% of all births were to cohabiting couples.

This confirms to Seattle family lawyers that cohabiting couples also need legal agreements that can clearly define their rights, obligations and duties in the event of a breakup.  In fact, a Washington couple that is not living together would actually require prenuptial or cohabitation agreements much more than a legally married couple.  When a legally married couple divorces, laws governing child custody, child support, and alimony kick in.  The courts have access to certain precedents that can be followed.

Washington does allow common-law marriages.  In such marriages, the couple enjoys many of the privileges accorded to married couples.  For instance, these couples have the right to file joint income tax returns, and call each other husband and wife.  If they want to break up, these couples can also go the divorce route, just like married couples.

A Washington couple that does not want to enter into a common-law marriage will definitely need the protection of a cohabitation agreement that clearly outlines all rights and obligations under the law.  Although cohabitation agreements have limited powers in matters of child custody and parenting, you can include some basic child support payment obligations too.

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