Skip Navigation

The Importance of a Cohabitation Agreement: Protecting Unmarried Parties in Wisconsin


The Importance of a Cohabitation Agreement: Protecting Unmarried Parties in Wisconsin

by Nathan Russell, Owner & Managing Attorney

In today’s society, more and more couples are choosing to live together without getting married. While cohabitation offers numerous benefits, it’s crucial for unmarried parties to understand that their legal rights and protections differ from those of married couples. To safeguard their interests and establish clear expectations, unmarried couples in Wisconsin should seriously consider entering into a cohabitation agreement. In this blog post, we will delve into the significance of a cohabitation agreement and the protections it offers to unmarried parties.

Defining a Cohabitation Agreement:

A cohabitation agreement, also known as a domestic partnership agreement, is a legally binding contract entered into by unmarried couples who are living together or planning to live together. This agreement outlines the rights, responsibilities, and expectations of each party during the cohabitation period and in the event of a separation.

The Importance of a Cohabitation Agreement:

  1. Clarifying Financial Responsibilities: One of the essential aspects of a cohabitation agreement is addressing financial matters. This includes outlining how expenses will be shared, property ownership, and potential financial support in the event of a separation. Without a cohabitation agreement, disputes may arise regarding the division of assets and debts accumulated during the relationship.
  2. Protecting Property Rights: In Wisconsin, property acquired during cohabitation is generally treated as individual property unless stated otherwise. With a cohabitation agreement, unmarried couples can establish joint ownership or define specific rights to property acquired during the relationship. This protects both parties from potential disputes and ensures a fair distribution of assets in case of separation.
  3. Defining Child Custody and Support: If the couple has children or plans to have children, a cohabitation agreement can address important matters such as child custody, visitation rights, and child support obligations. By establishing these provisions in advance, unmarried couples can minimize conflicts and provide stability for their children.
  4. Addressing Healthcare and Medical Decisions: In the absence of legal marriage, unmarried partners may not have automatic rights to make medical decisions for each other. By including provisions in a cohabitation agreement, such as granting medical power of attorney, couples can ensure that their wishes regarding healthcare and medical decisions are respected.
  5. Minimizing Legal Disputes: Without a cohabitation agreement, unmarried couples may face significant legal challenges if the relationship ends. Issues such as property division, support obligations, and custody arrangements can quickly escalate into time-consuming and costly court battles many times costing more in legal fees than the assets being fought over. A well-drafted cohabitation agreement can minimize these disputes by providing clear guidelines and reducing ambiguity.


While unmarried couples in Wisconsin may not have the same legal protections as married couples, they can take proactive steps to safeguard their rights and interests. By entering into a cohabitation agreement, couples can establish clear expectations, address financial matters, protect property rights, define child custody and support arrangements, and make provisions for healthcare decisions. Engaging an experienced family law attorney is advisable to ensure that the cohabitation agreement is properly drafted and legally enforceable. By prioritizing a cohabitation agreement, unmarried parties can protect themselves and their loved ones, providing peace of mind and security in their relationships.  Russell Law Offices, SC has a very experienced team of family law and contract attorneys who can advise and guide you through the drafting and implementation process.  Contact our attorneys today for assistance!


Nathan Russell

Managing Attorney and Owner

All Locations

About Nathan Russell is the founder and owner of Russell Law Offices, SC.  Born and raised on his family’s fifth generation dairy and crop farm in Shullsburg, he returned to Southwest Wisconsin to practice law in 2009.    Nathan earned a degree in Agricultural Economics and his Juris Doctorate from UW-Madison.  Prior to opening Russell […]

View Full Bio

Schedule A Consultation Today

Contact Us