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Cohabitation Rights In Florida


Many people don’t know this, but up until 2016 it was a misdemeanor for couples to cohabitate in lieu of getting married. That’s when the Florida legislature finally repealed the prohibition, a fall back from the Reconstruction era that carried significant fines and jail time.  It’s a good thing, too, because we all know that plenty of couples choose to live together prior to or instead of getting married. So while it’s legal to cohabitate these days, do couples who live together face any particular risks if they split up? Especially when the couple shares children, are there any special rules regarding the split?

Custody and Visitation

Florida courts are always focused on the best outcomes for children in a split, whether the parents were legally married or not.  Both parents have basic rights and responsibilities when it comes to their children, and the courts try to ensure that those are upheld and protected as long as paternity has been established. The court must approve of a parenting plan when a couple no longer cohabitates, including custody, visitation, child support, and everything else that goes along with it. To be clear, legal custody is often shared, meaning both parents have the opportunity to participate in decision-making for the children when it comes to major issues like religion, health issues, and so forth.  Physical custody might also be shared, or may be awarded primarily to one parent, while the other is afforded visitation, or time-sharing.

Property Rights When Unmarried Couples Separate 

When married couples divorce, the laws in Florida require an equitable distribution, though not necessarily equal split of marital property. Since there is no marital property when unmarried couples separate and no other laws are on the books regarding property division, things could get difficult for couples who call it quits and have no legal agreements in place, especially when they have no shared property. Regardless of how long you’ve lived together, if one person provided most of the financial support and the other cared for the home and kids, assets will remain with the partner who earned them. That’s why it is recommended that a fair cohabitation agreement be drawn up to direct the division of assets in the event it is necessary down the road.

How to Prepare for a Contract 

Because a cohabitation agreement is legally binding, it serves to protect both parties if a separation or death occurs.  Couples should have an honest discussion about assets and debts, as well as any joint purchases under consideration. Inheritance issues, health decisions, and so forth can all be included in the final document.

Drafting the Document 

The Boca Raton family law attorneys at WiseLieberman understand Florida law and are prepared to assist as you take steps to protect your future. Schedule a confidential consultation today.



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