On Your Side
Cohabitation agreements: Unromantic or realistic?
Steve Chamraz reports Video by tmj4.comvideo
MILWAUKEE - Sara Maihofer and Tony Oxley live together in Milwaukee. This couple has been together four years, and they have a pretty laid back approach to managing the household.
"We actually take turns buying things, like one of us bought the TV, one bought the mattresses," Sara explains.
However, some couples take a more formal approach: A cohabitation agreement.
So what is a cohabitation agreement? Kelly Dodd is a divorce attorney at Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. in Milwaukee. She explains, "It's an agreement regarding how you're gonna handle the rights and responsibilities with respect to your joint or individual assets."
Dodd says it can also be used to figure out who gets what if a couple breaks up. "One of the benfits of these types of agreements--the parties can dictate the terms."
Sara and Tony admit they can see the advantage of having one for some couples.
"It makes sense. I guess it clears up any confusion that there would be if you don't know who's paying for what," Tony admits.
But they both agree, it's not for them.
"I don't feel we would ever need one because if something were to happen... I don't think we would be so irrational to not be able to figure things out," Sara says.
The agreements can also cover chores--like who does the cooking, and takes out the dog.
You can find the agreements online or draft your own, but Dodd recommends having a lawyer take a look at it.
"In Wisconsin they are controlled by the civil court laws governing contracts," she explains.
As for Sara and Tony--they'll take their chances without a contract.
Tony says, "I guess if you are figuring out who gets what should the relationship end," and Sara finishes his thought, "Then you're assuming it's gonna fail!"
Dodd warns the terms of a cohabitation agreement are not a guarantee. In the same way people enter into pre-nups, a cohab agreement can be undone if the court believes the terms are unfair at the time of the break-up.