What You Need to Know About Cohabitation Agreements in California

Millions of American couples choose to live together but not marry. If you and your partner live together and are not married, you might benefit from a cohabitation agreement. Depending on the circumstances, a cohabitation agreement may be right for you and your romantic partner. By having setting legal boundaries and obligations, your potential break-up will likely be much smoother. Here’s what you need to know about cohabitation agreements in California.

Legal Definition of a Cohabitation Agreement

In California, a cohabitation agreement is legally defined as a mutual agreement between two romantically involved partners that live together but are not married. A cohabitation agreement addresses the financial and personal problems a couple may encounter during a potential breakup. You and your partner can decide which aspects of your personal and financial life you would like to cover under the cohabitation agreement. For example, if there are two roommates in a household and one person is the home manager while the other is focused on bringing in income. You two could be living together for a while, and while one person is at home managing the home the other person is out working and collecting money. If you two split up, this could be detrimental to the person not making the main income. It’s important to have a cohabitation agreement signed and ready for this kind of situation so that the home manager may have some income to find a new home and live.

Although planning for a breakup isn’t the most romantic topic of conversation, you and your partner are both at risk without an established cohabitation agreement.

Legal Requirements of a Cohabitation Agreement

In order for a cohabitation agreement to be valid and enforced by a California court, the agreement must meet certain legal requirements. A cohabitation agreement should include who is paying the rent, mortgage, utilities, who will deal with any damages to the home, and things such as how joint accounts will be dealt with. You could add more items to the cohabitation agreement, but they must be legal and fair to all parties. To find what legal requirements are necessary to validate your agreement, contact a cohabitation agreement attorney. Pride Legal’s network of LGBT family law attorneys can help you create an agreement that meets you and your partner’s specific needs.

However, regardless of the state you live in, the following requirements must be met in order for a cohabitation agreement’s terms to be enforced by a court.


Consideration is an exchange of value between both agreeing parties. For example, one partner can agree to pay all rent expenses in exchange for the other partner to take care of all home maintenance, such as cooking or cleaning.

With that being said, couples cannot use sexual favors as a consideration. Doing so would violate prostitution laws and be considered criminal activity. However, one partner can agree to take care of living expenses in exchange for the other partner spending close time with the other partner.

Knowledge of Agreement

In order for the agreement to be considered valid, all parties involved must be fully aware of the agreement’s terms and conditions. Both partners should disclose their terms before signing the agreement. However, certain jurisdictions allow you to voluntarily waive any disclosure obligation if done in writing.

Must Be In Writing

In order for the agreement to be enforced by a California court, the terms and conditions must be explicitly stated in writing. Verbal agreements will not be enforced by a California court.

Terms of a Cohabitation Agreement

A couple can choose what aspects of their personal and financial lives they would like to cover in the cohabitation agreement. Partners should speak to an attorney to decide what terms and conditions should be included in the agreement.

For the most part, you and your partner should include aspects of your life that are important to both of you. By listing specific terms to which you would like yourself and your partner to adhere by, you and your partner will avoid risk in the event of an emergency or a potential breakup.

The following topics may be addressed in a cohabitation agreement:

  • Child Custody
  • Children & Family
  • Child Support
  • Debts
  • Expenses
  • Healthcare
  • Healthcare Directives
  • Health Insurance
  • Income
  • Inheritances
  • Lifestyles clauses
  • Personal Property
  • Pets
  • Property
  • Real Property
  • Savings
  • Spousal Support
  • Vehicles

Modifying the Agreement

An important part of a cohabitation agreement is making it adaptable to change. You and partner may not know what’s in store for your future, so that’s why you should prepare to modify your agreement. To streamline modifications, ensure that your initial agreement uses clear diction and is precise in the eyes of the law.

The Breakup

Your agreement should specify what happens if the relationship ends. A cohabitation agreement can include the specifics of moving out and who gets what. If you jointly own property, it is important to proactively decide what to do with that property if the relationship ends.

How much does a cohabitation agreement cost?

The cost of a cohabitation agreement depends on the way you create it. Couples can create cohabitation agreements in two ways: they can either hire a lawyer to draft the agreement of do it themselves. Obviously, the second option is cheaper. Couples can use a cheap or free online  template to base their agreement off. Of course, a DIY cohabitation agreement is less likely to be enforced by a court, but may be useful for couples on a budget.

However, if you and your partner want to ensure that your agreement is foolproof, it is essential to hire an attorney to draft it for you. You and your partner can walk through the agreement with the attorney, specifying what aspects of your life you would like to include and what factors you would like to leave out.


Couples should not view cohabitation agreements as a breach of their relationship; in fact, it’s the opposite. These agreements are put in place to set boundaries between you and your partner to ensure that personal and financial issues should not arise during or after your relationship. By clearly stating what you and your partner want, you can respect each others’ needs and avoid conflict.

A cohabitation agreement can likely give you and your partner peace of mind. It is better to be proactive by avoiding legal trouble, rather than dealing with it at the end of your relationship.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one is seeking a cohabitation agreement, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.