Unmarried Cohabitation

The term “unmarried cohabitation” generally applies to situations in which two adults are living together continuously and in a relationship that shares common traits with marriage. That is to say, more is required than that two adults live together as roommates. There must be a relationship between the parties that involves assumption of some or all of the rights and duties that accompany marriage. Unmarried cohabitation is a marriage-like relationship in which the parties are not legally married.

Although an unmarried cohabitant relationship may share traits with a marriage, unmarried cohabitation is not recognized as a legal status in North Carolina. Therefore, couples who live together in a relationship, even for many years, are usually not entitled to legal remedies like equitable distribution of property or alimony if the relationship ends. Property is instead divided according to who owns title to the property. While some states offer alternatives to marriage, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships, North Carolina does not. Some businesses and municipalities within North Carolina do offer domestic partner benefits.

The best way for cohabiting couples to establish rights and obligations between themselves is by contractual agreement. North Carolina courts have held that express agreements between cohabiting partners as to division of property between them when the relationship ends are enforceable as long as the agreement is not based on sexual services. Because it is usually very difficult to come to an agreement about property division once the relationship goes bad, cohabiting couples would be wise to make an agreement in writing while the relationship is on good terms, and especially before acquiring any major property interest. If you are in an unmarried cohabitant relationship and need help with any of these issues or any other issues, please feel free to contact us for guidance.