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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

Unmarried couples and home purchases may not always mix

It is not uncommon for Tennessee couples who haven't gotten married to choose to live together. Some do so as a prelude to an eventual wedding, while others might simply prefer to remain single. However, there are some aspects of such a relationship that could prove to be problematic down the road, and one of them involves buying a home together.

When couples go through a divorce, state law will guide the courts in making property division and other determinations, unless the parties have entered into a settlement agreement beforehand. In Tennessee, marital property will be divided on a basis on which the court deems to be fair. However, there is not the same type of protection for a couple that is simply cohabiting, and this can get tricky if the couple has purchased a home and taken out a mortgage to do so.

It is recommended by legal advisers that, prior to making such a purchase, an unmarried couple enter into what some refer to as a cohabitation agreement, which in many respects is a document similar to a prenuptial agreement but that contains provisions guiding actions before the couple gets married, if ever. These could include, for example, the percentages of mortgage payments and repair costs that each party would be required to make, as well as how any profits would be divided if the house was subsequently sold.

As is the case when dealing with an agreement providing for the division of property obtained during the marriage, a cohabitation agreement should be in writing. It should also be reviewed by the parties' respective family law attorneys before it is signed.

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