Michigan Cohabitation Agreements



The housing market—along with the pandemic and the economy—has created a housing shortage and a steep increase in “Cohabitation Relationships”---romantic partners living together and even purchasing property together.

What’s not to like? All of the benefits of a live in romantic partner—without the strings.

Right? Wrong.

Cohabitation relationships exist with mostly unwritten- sometimes unspoken- rules. Over time the partners fall into familiar routines: One partner does the household chores and grocery shopping, one person is responsible for maintenance and bill paying. Over time the finances are commingled; cars, hot tubs, and houses are purchased.

And, when the relationship ends, both sides want their “rules” and “agreements” enforced. Both sides want credit for contributions to the household and for work done on behalf of the other partner. Which is how they end up in a law office.

But here is the kicker: There is no way to sue in a Michigan Court regarding a cohabitation situation without a written agreement.

Even when you purchase property together. Even when you are both on the deed.

Michigan family law attorneys are flooded with people wanting to sue because they are on the title (maybe even the mortgage) of a piece of property shared with their now ex.

The law is clear though. And there are no loopholes.

In order to recover anything in Court, a person must show that a Contract Implied in Fact actually existed. This means that there would have to be services performed where payment was expected (on both sides). In a meretricious relationship (Court’s term, not mine) there is a strong presumption that domestic chores done by one partner is gratuitous ie. No expectation on either side of payment. Roznowski v. Bozyk, 73 Mich App 405, 251 NW2d 616 (1977)

A meretricious relationship is defined as one in which there is a stable relationship evidenced by such factors as continuous cohabitation, pooling of resources, evidence of companionship, friendship, love, sex, mutual support and caring. In the Matter of Pennington.

So what is one to do when the relationship falls apart with no written agreement? You are shut out of court with no remedy. Plain and Simple.
I will try to help you. I will try to find a solution outside of the Courts. But your options are slim---both parties must want to come to an agreement.

However, there is a solution: Domestic Partnership Agreements AKA Cohabitation Agreements

Domestic Partnership Agreements /Cohabitation Agreements (DPA) are written contracts which are binding on the parties and enforceable in Court.
The Agreement can address property ownership, separate assets, commingled assets, bill paying, parental rights, rights of the parties upon the death of the other, compensation, health care, disability care,…the list of what an agreement can address is literally endless.

Importantly, a DPA can (and should) address what happens if/when the relationship dissolves. The DPA can mandate arbitration, the joint payment of attorney fees, even the choice of jurisdiction.

A DPA is similar to a prenuptial agreement, and is enforceable in Court as a contract. If you are living with someone, or plan to move in with someone, I strongly recommend you obtain a DPA.

I am happy to sit down with you and your partner to create an agreement tailored to your specific needs.