A Cohabitation Agreement Can Help Protect Unmarried Parents’ Rights in New York

Are you part of the growing trend of unmarried parents living together in New York with no intention of getting married? You’re not alone. The landscape of relationships is changing, with more couples opting for domestic partnerships over marriage. This shift is not just about economic factors but also reflects a broader societal acceptance of couples who decide not to marry, even when they choose to start a family together.

However, should your relationship end in separation, you will not be protected by the same laws that dictate how a divorce would be settled if you were married. This is especially important when you have children together or share substantial assets. In this blog, we discuss why unmarried couples with children should have a valid cohabitation agreement in place to protect each person’s rights and interests in the event of a separation.

While living together without being married offers flexibility and freedom, it is important to recognize that New York State laws do not automatically grant unmarried biological parents the same rights as married couples. This means that if you’re living together and have children, you should start the process early of getting a cohabitation agreement in place to protect your legal rights as parents for the well-being of your family.

In New York, simply having the father’s name on the birth certificate is not enough to establish legal paternity. Instead, biological fathers need to sign an acknowledgment of paternity at the time of the child’s birth to secure custodial rights and ensure the child’s inheritance rights in the event of the father’s death. Without this acknowledgment, both parents could find themselves caught in costly and time-consuming legal battles over child custody if the relationship ends in separation.

Moreover, even with a signed acknowledgment of paternity, complications can arise if one parent decides to relocate with the child without the other parent’s consent. In such cases, the non-custodial parent may need to seek a court order to enforce their visitation rights or have the child returned. To avoid such potential nightmares, it’s advisable for these unmarried parents to have a cohabitation agreement made.

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each partner regarding the children, financial support, asset division, and more. By creating a cohabitation agreement while the relationship is stable and amicable, you can protect your interests and determine how any potential legal disputes that arise in the future will be settled.

But it doesn’t stop there. In addition to a cohabitation agreement, unmarried couples should also consult with a trusts and estates attorney to ensure that their rights are protected in case of death. Without proper estate planning, the surviving partner may face challenges in asserting their inheritance rights or providing for their children’s future. It’s best to put your family attorney in touch with your trusts and estates attorney at the time your agreement is being drafted.

Establishing your rights as unmarried parents may seem daunting, but it’s a crucial step in protecting your family’s well-being. By being proactive and seeking legal guidance before any problems arise, you can ensure that your rights are upheld and your children are provided for, even if the relationship doesn’t last forever. Start having early conversations with your significant other about some of the terms you’d like included in your cohabitation agreement so you are better prepared when the time comes to have your agreement made.

If you’re a New York parent choosing not to marry but still living with your significant other, it’s essential that you take proactive steps to protect your legal rights and the well-being of your family. While a domestic partnership offers many benefits, it’s crucial to recognize that without a marriage license, you’re not automatically granted the same legal protections simply because you have children together. A cohabitation agreement that is tailored to your specific circumstances can provide a legally binding framework to address issues like child custody, financial support, asset division, and more in the event of a separation.

At Vacca Family Law Group, we understand the importance of securing your family’s future when you and your significant other are unmarried and have children together. Our attorneys can offer tailored advice to help you evaluate your situation and craft a thorough cohabitation agreement that is tailored to your unique needs. For more information, contact us online or call (646) 798-4740 to schedule your free introductory call.

Vacca Family Law Group is located at One Grand Central Place, 60 E. 42nd St., Suite 764, New York, NY 10165.