Cohabitation is on the rise in America. The 2000 Census found that there was a 72% increase in the number of cohabitating couples in this country during the decade between the 1990 and 2000 census. The 2000 census also reported that 144,000 unmarried couples lived together in North Carolina. These numbers are expected to increase again in the upcoming 2010 census.

Until 2006, North Carolina was one of several states with laws that criminalized the cohabitation of unmarried adults. However, North Carolina’s law was ruled unconstitutional by a State Superior Court Judge on the basis that the state’s law violated the United State’s Supreme Courts ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. 539 U.S. 558 (2003).  In Lawrence, the Supreme Court found that consensual adult sexual acts, in the privacy of one’s own home, received protection under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

There are many reasons a couple may chose to cohabitate rather then marry; however, cohabitating couples should be aware that their rights differ greatly from people in a legally recognized marriage. The difference in the amount of protection the law provides is staggering. Unmarried couples do not share the same rights as married couples in making health care decisions for each other, inheriting property after death, and dividing property when a relationship ends.

Cohabitating couples wishing to establish some rights may do so through the use of a cohabitation agreement, also known as a domestic partnership agreement. These agreements are essentially a written contract between the couple which may outline a multitude of things; including what property each partner brings into the relation, the division of that property in the event the relationship ends, the duties of each partner in the relationship, and what will happen to the property of the relationship at the death of one partner. It is best to meet with your attorney to discuss what type of agreement would best suit you and your partner’s needs.  

DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION PROVIDED ON THIS WEBSITE WAS PREPARED BY SODOMA LAW, P.C. AND IS INTENDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND NOT, IN ANY WAY, CONSIDERED LEGAL ADVICE.