LIVING TOGETHER: WHAT'S THE LAW? by Leland S. Englebardt


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Though hardly, as billed, ""the first comprehensive guide of its kind,"" this short book is far from the worst of the recent spate of familiarity-breeds-litigation literature. Englebardt sticks to the basics of setting up and dissolving an unmarried relationship: property ownership; ""cohabitation contracts""; the impact of living together on the parties' alimony and custody rights under previous divorce decrees; tax and insurance questions; and the rights of an unmarried cohabitant upon the death of a partner or termination of the relationship. The Marvin case receives the obligatory discussion, but Englebardt also examines Illinois' less-known Hewitt decision, which runs directly contra to Marvin in its refusal to find an implied property-sharing contract from the cohabitants' behavior alone and underscores the wisdom of a living-together agreement: ""Anything in writing is better than no writing at all"". A cohabitation contract, Englebardt points out, has two purposes--one obvious and one subtle. It lays out in black and white who owns what and who gets what, to be sure; but (by explicitly excluding sex as the basis of the agreement) it also protects the parties against the courts' traditional refusal to enforce rights claimed to arise from an ""illicit"" relationship. Also good is Englebardt's treatment of child-custody issues--those involving children from the previous marriage, and those involving children of unwed couples. Income-tax problems and benefits of cohabitation (the ""marriage penalty"" quirk of the federal income tax laws), as well as basic estate and inheritance matters, are covered in sufficient detail to answer most common questions. Can you claim your unmarried partner as a dependent for tax purposes? Can your partner's abandoned but undivorced wife challenge his will? The answers are here. All in all, a good handbook on what to do until Marvin Mitchelson returns your call, and better than Mitchelson's own text on the subject--though not as good as the Clair-Daniele Love Pact (1980) on drafting an actual living-together agreement.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1981
Publisher: Crown