Moving in together after a period of dating seems to be the norm nowadays. In fact, it's practically expected among millenials who can't imagine marrying someone without living with them first. Then there's the group of people who simply don't see the need for marriage. One can, after all, live in a state of love and commitment with or without legal acknowledgment. In fact, it may be argued that the legal ties and responsibilities of marriage are precisely what causes people to fall out of love. Regardless of the reasons, there is plenty of evidence to support the idea that cohabitation is the new marriage.
Of course, what looks good in theory doesn't always work out in practice. Marriage is a legally binding agreement, which means spouses are entitled to certain rights and protections under the law. These rights include equitable distribution, or the right to receive a fair share of the marital assets. Financially dependent spouses may also request alimony so that they are not at an economic disadvantage during and after the divorce. Some of you may have heard of palimony, which is financial compensation or support between unmarried couples. However, palimony is difficult to secure since the courts will only consider post-relationship support requests if it was promised in writing. It's even harder to get a share of the assets, since properties outside of marriage are generally separate properties, unless they're in both people's names.
These considerations may not be alarming to individuals who are secure in their finances, or have family and other resources to fall back on should the relationship fail. Certainly, one should not go against one's personal beliefs or rush into marriage just to secure specific legal protections. One should, however, plan wisely if they are involved in a long-term state of cohabitation. For example, many engaged couples work on prenuptial agreements in order to protect their individual assets. Prenuptial agreements can also expedite a divorce, since most of the property and financial issues are worked out ahead of time.
A palimony agreement works in a similar fashion, although it can be hard to bring this up with one's partner. Whether you should or not depends on factors such as the length of your relationship, your individual income levels and properties you have acquired during the relationship. Hopefully, you are in a situation where you can be explicit with your partner about your expectations in the event of a breakup. You may find it easier to discuss these issues after speaking with an experienced family law attorney. You will want to seek out independent counsel anyway, should you decide to enter into a palimony agreement. Although New Jersey laws do not require legal counsel prior to writing up a palimony agreement, ones that were drafted by an attorney are much more likely to hold up in court. For more information on your palimony rights and legal options, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.