Jonathan Marks, STL Moms: Attorney discusses Cohabitation Law

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Margie Ellisor: Well, more and more couples are choosing to live together instead of getting married. So what happens if that couple decides to split? There are so rules out there, want to talk it over with family law attorney Jonathan Marks with the Marks Law Firm. Good morning to you.

Jonathan Marks: Good morning, Margie.

ME: Yes we were just talking…it’s kind of going that way where more and more people are deciding, “We’re going to skip getting married, we’re just going to live together.” And then they’re carrying on, having kids, sharing property. So what happens when they split?

JM: Well, it’s like a divorce, but yet, it’s more complicated. Instead of having one proceeding where you’re going to divide all the property, take care of the custody situation, and address support, you really have to go into two or three different suits in order to really accomplish all those particular tasks.

ME: Okay. So let’s start with children. If this couple has decided to have kids, what happens there?

JM: So there’s two routes that that can go. Depending on the situation and how involved both of the parents are, if one parent winds up with the majority of the custody time and is really just looking for support, that individual is probably just going to apply for child support through the Family Support Division. On the other hand you have two involved parents and they really can’t get along for purposes of determining who’s going to have the majority of the custody time, they’re going to head to the family court, and just like in a divorce, they’re going to go through a custody suit to determine the proper amount of custody time and also the support amounts to be paid between the two parents.

ME: Alright, what about property?

JM: Well that’s very complicated.

ME: A little tricky, right?

JM: Yeah, your most common situation is where somebody has bought a house together, and so instead of being Mr. and Mrs., it’s in the names of these two individual people. So instead of having one divorce suit where you’re going to have a judge handle all these issues and divide the property with the overall divorce, you’re going to have to file a suit in the circuit court, most commonly called a Partition Suit, to be able to address the sale or division of the home, or any other contractual matters you may have entered into as two unmarried individuals.

ME: What advice do you have for people who maybe say, “You know, we do want to try to live together first,” you said there’s something kind of like a prenup you can almost…sign?

JM: It’s not very common, but it’s trending to become a little more common. Basically what it’s called is a Cohabitation Agreement. You would typically enter into these types of things when you know you are in a committed relationship, but maybe you’ve been divorced before and you’re not really wanting to get married again, you enter into basically what’s a prenuptial, otherwise you’re addressing all the issues you go through, divide property, address support issues, and if the two of you split up you have a document that you can enforce in court, as opposed to just trying to figure it out on your own.

ME: Alright do you recommend before going into that also that, that you do have both of your names, like you mentioned, on the house and on the property?

JM: That’s a personal decision. It depends upon how much money is being put into it and what the arrangements are. I think it’s important that two individuals are entering into that situation and they really need to think about how they’re going to address it. Not that they should think about the worst thing happening when they go into it, but just have a game plan so that when they do enter into it they know what’s going to happen if things go awry.

ME: Alright, very good. Thank you so much. Family law attorney Jonathan Marks with the law firm, we appreciate your time this morning.

JM: Thank you.

ME: For more information on the Marks Law Firm go to

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