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Understanding the Rights of Unmarried Couples in Illinois

Posted on in Divorce

unmarried couples, Schaumburg family law attorney, cohabitation agreement, Illinois Supreme Court, common-law marriageToday, many couples choose to live together before getting married or even forego marriage altogether, while still combining their finances, intermingling their property, and raising children together. While this type of living arrangement has become more and more common over the past several decades, unmarried couples should understand their rights and take steps to protect themselves in case their relationship ever ends.

Legal Decisions Regarding Cohabitation in Illinois

Illinois does not recognize common-law marriage, and a 1979 decision by the Illinois Supreme Court found that an unmarried person does not have any rights to his or her domestic partner’s property after the relationship ends. When this decision was made, the court stated that it was intended to discourage cohabitation and avoid weakening the institution of marriage.

Times have changed since 1979, and cohabitation is more common and accepted. But when the Illinois Supreme Court once again had a chance to address this matter, it upheld the previous decision.

In 2016, the court heard a case involving a same-sex couple (one of whom was a Cook County judge) who had lived together for more than 25 years and raised three children together. While the court noted that social attitudes have changed, it decided that unmarried partners are not entitled to maintenance or equitable property division following a breakup.

Protecting Your Rights Through a Cohabitation Agreement

Unless the Illinois legislature makes changes to the law, it is clear that unmarried couples who end their relationship will not have the same legal protections that married couples do.

In order to protect their rights, unmarried couples should consider signing a cohabitation agreement. This type of agreement can cover a variety of the legal aspects of a relationship, including:

  • How property, assets, and debts will be divided in the event of a breakup;
  • How partners will share parental roles and responsibilities;
  • How partners will be covered under employer health insurance for domestic partners;
  • Whether partners will be named as beneficiaries of retirement plans; and
  • Whether partners can make health care decisions for each other (in these cases, it may be necessary to establish power of attorney for health care).

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney

Whether you are planning to move in with your partner or are already living together, you should make sure you have taken the necessary steps to protect your rights. A cohabitation agreement will not only ensure you are prepared for a possible breakup, but it will also give you the legal framework you need to protect your rights throughout your relationship.

The attorneys at Anderson & Associates, P.C. can work with you to create an agreement that meets your needs. Contact a Schaumburg family law attorney at 847-995-9999 to schedule a free consultation.




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