Many people in the United States are choosing to live unmarried together and may not realize the benefits and risks to doing so. In some states a cohabitation agreement is an option to keep you safe from financial risks but unfortunately, Illinois law prohibits cohabitation agreements from being legally binding. A cohabitation agreement is a legal contract signed by people who want to live together without being married but still want to codify an understanding of financial, medical or funerary obligations to one another until and after the relationship is dissolved, or if one partner dies. Without this safety net, there is substantial risks involved in living together unwed. In the two examples below we can explore how people were affected by things like common-law marriage and cohabitation agreements not being recognized in Illinois.
Victoria Hewitt and Robert Hewitt were together from 1960 to 1975. In the 15 years they were together they shared three children together and lived as a married couple would. They had joined finances, property, and they lived as one unit. According to Victoria, she was promised to share her partner’s “life, his future, his earnings and his property”. She felt as if they were married even though they did not have a ceremony or a certificate of marriage. At the time of the case, Robert was earning $80,000 a year and had accumulated large amounts of property some jointly with Victoria some solely. Victoria’s request to an “an equal share of the profits and properties accumulated by the parties”, was ultimately dismissed by court on the grounds that Illinois law and public policy requires such claims must be based on a valid marriage. (Hewitt v. Hewitt 1979)
In a similar case, Blumenthal v. Brewer, Dr. Blumenthal and Judge Brewer were in a long-term relationship, in which they were never married. The two owned a home which Dr. Blumenthal requested the court divide evenly among the two because it was joint property. The problem in this case arose when Judge Brewer made a counterclaim requesting the sole title to their home as well as an interest in a medical group that Blumenthal owned shares. Since common-law marriage regulations are prohibited in Illinois, the counterclaim was barred by the Illinois Supreme Court. (Brewer v. Brewer 2016)
If you have any questions regarding cohabitation agreement and would like to talk to an attorney, please contact our office to set up a consultation.