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Cohabitation Agreement in Texas: What Is It and What Does It Mean?

Sophia Merton
March 19, 2024

In Texas, a couple can be informally married without getting a marriage license or ever walking down the aisle. Individuals that live with their partner but aren’t technically married can create cohabitation agreements in order to outline agreed-upon terms regarding finances and other matters.

What exactly is a cohabitation agreement, though? What issues can this legal document cover, and what benefits could it provide for you? Is the only reason to make a cohabitation agreement in anticipation that your relationship will end?

In this article, we’ll take a close look at what you need to know about cohabitation agreements as well as go over the basics of common law marriage in Texas.

What Is a Cohabitation Agreement in Texas?

In the state of Texas, a cohabitation agreement is a legal document used by couples who live together but are not married. This contract outlines the rights and responsibilities of each person regarding their shared or individual assets, debts, and financial obligations.

couple living together common law marraige with cohabitation agreement

While cohabitation agreements are more commonly associated with unmarried couples, they actually can be used by any two people living together, such as friends or relatives.

  • You can think of a cohabitation agreement as kind of like a prenuptial agreement in that they go into detail about how assets and debts will be divvied up if the relationship were to come to an end.
  • The difference, of course, is that the two parties creating a cohabitation agreement have no intention of getting formally married, while a prenup is created leading up to traditional marriage.

This type of document can even outline terms for spousal support, just like a prenup.

Cohabitation agreements don’t just cover what will happen if two individuals part ways. This is also an important document that can help protect both parties in lieu of being legally married.

couple living together common law marraige with cohabitation agreement

For example, it can be difficult for one partner to be given the legal authority to make choices on their partner’s behalf if they aren’t legally married. With a cohabitation agreement, however, the rights of the couple to act for one another are protected.

These agreements can also appoint critical roles within the relationship. For instance, one party might be elected as the conservator of their partner in the event of an emergency.

What Is Covered Under a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement can cover a variety of topics related to the financial and property arrangements between the parties involved. Let's take a closer look at some of the specific issues you might want to include in yours.

Are you looking for more info about family law in Texas? Check out these guides:

Property Division

A cohabitation agreement can specify what happens to property acquired before and during the cohabitation. This means that this document can describe, in detail, how things like real estate, vehicles, furniture, and other possessions will be divvied up.

couple living together common law marraige with cohabitation agreement

It can also define which assets are considered individual property and which are considered joint property, and outline how joint property should be divided in the event of a breakup.

Financial Arrangements

Even if you never got a marriage license and walked down the aisle, living with someone as if you’re married typically means that your finances are very combined.

couple living together common law marraige with cohabitation agreement

Through a cohabitation agreement, you can discuss details on how household expenses, bills, and debts will be shared or divided. This may cover rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, and credit card debts, among others. The agreement can also outline whether and how one party will support the other financially during or after the relationship.

  • Couples can also use cohabitation agreements to specify whether the couple will maintain separate bank accounts, share a joint account, or have both. It can also address how savings and investments will be handled.

Basically, it’s a way to create a structured financial plan with your partner and put it in writing. This is a great way to ensure you and your significant other are on the same page and working toward the same financial goals with a shared understanding.

Debt Liability

Of course, when you’re talking about money, you’re not just talking about how to divide up all the stuff you have. It’s also necessary to discuss what will happen to all the money you owe.

Whether the debt on your table comes in the form of a mortgage, car loan, medical debt, credit card debt, student loans, or some combination of the above, you’ll have to determine who is responsible for what both during and after the relationship. The agreement can state whether each person is responsible for their own debts or if they will share responsibility for certain debts.


While child custody and support cannot be determined by a cohabitation agreement (as these are subject to state laws and courts), the document can include arrangements for any children from the relationship, such as how parents will handle expenses and savings for the child's needs.

It’s generally advised to work with a lawyer when creating a cohabitation agreement, but whether or not this is necessary can depend on how complex your situation is. However, if there are children involved in the relationship and you are going to touch upon these issues in the document, you’ll most certainly want to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.

Healthcare and Estate Planning

Another topic that you can touch upon in your cohabitation agreement has to do with healthcare and estate planning.

For example, this document could include directives regarding medical decisions in the event that one person becomes incapacitated. They can also outline what you and your partner have in terms of estate planning wishes, such as detailing beneficiary designations and inheritance rights.

Are There Any Benefits to Having a Cohabitation Agreement in Texas?

The verbiage of the contract, in addition to the issues that are addressed, will be key when it comes to whether or not a cohabitation agreement is considered valid. For instance, if there is a clear agreement between two people that has to do with financial matters such as mortgage payments or rent, the matter could potentially be enforced in court.

The issue is that sometimes, the matters outlined in the contract are less quantifiable than simple financial agreements. In these instances, it can be more difficult to enforce the agreement in court.

Understanding Common Law Marriage in Texas

In Texas, common law marriage, also known as informal marriage, is recognized as a legal form of marriage. In the eyes of the law, it is considered valid, just like a traditional marriage that is based on a marriage license and ceremony.

There are three key points that underlie what it means to be informally married in Texas. These are:

  • Both parties must agree to be married. This means that there must be a mutual understanding and intention to be husband and wife.
  • The couple must live together in Texas as a married couple. However, there is no specified minimum time period for which the couple needs to live together to qualify as common law married.
  • The couple must represent themselves to others as married. This can include actions such as using the same last name, referring to each other as husband or wife, and filing joint tax returns.

If a couple meets these requirements, they are considered married under Texas law. However, unlike a formal marriage, there is no marriage certificate to easily prove the relationship's existence.

While this might not be a problem on a day to day basis, not being able to prove the existence of the relationship can be a big problem in the event of a divorce, medical emergency, or any issues of inheritance or the estate. In this situation where the existence of the marriage might be disputed, either partner (or their heirs) might need to prove the existence of a common law marriage through evidence and testimony.

Navigating Family Law in Texas

Creating a cohabitation agreement when you live with your partner but aren’t married to them is a great way to protect both of you. Not only will it create a clear record of how you want to divide up property and debts if you were to split up, but it also allows you more control over your estate and issues of inheritance.

Furthermore, common law marriages are only recognized if three conditions are met. The couple must agree to be married, live together, and represent to others that they are married. Depending on how you structure the document and the content of it, a cohabitation agreement can help prove the existence of the marriage down the road if you find that to be necessary.

Are you searching for more information about family law in the Lone Star State? Make sure you check out our Texas Divorce Law blog for more articles and resources!

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is a researcher and writer that aims to help make the complexities of the legal system understandable to the layperson. Believing that people can be empowered by understanding their rights and responsibilities under the law, Sophia aims to offer accurate and well-researched information in straightforward and easy-to-digest legal articles.

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