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Cohabitation versus marriage: The facts

Your partner has long sought a marriage, but you've been against it. You know that living together is all you need to feel like a couple, but your partner argues that the legal benefits outweigh the freedom of staying separate on paper.

Deciding to get married is a very personal decision. If you've been living with your partner for an extended amount of time, you may think that cohabitation is the same as marriage. Maybe you think that the only difference is a piece of paper binding you to your partner by law. That's not really true. Cohabitating isn't the same as living together as a married couple in the eyes of the law.

Are there formal requirements to cohabitate?

There are no formal requirements to live together and cohabitate. Marriage, on the other hand, requires blood tests, a waiting period, a ceremony by an official and a license among other necessities. While you can decide to move out and move on at any time when you're cohabitating, marriages must be legally ended through a formal process.

What happens to your assets if you separate while cohabitating?

If you cohabitate, your assets are not necessarily protected in the event that you want to separate from your partner. In fact, there are no legal guidelines as to how you must divide your assets if you decide to separate. For those in a marriage, divorcing spouses must divide their assets in accordance with the laws of the state.

If you're separating after living together with a partner, you may be able to argue for a settlement in court, but remember that most of your assets may be separate depending on who purchased them. Your attorney can help you decide if you want to move forward with going to court.

Source: FindLaw, "Marriage vs. Cohabitation," accessed Aug. 03, 2017

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