Knowledge Base

Creating A Foundation For Cohabitation

September 1, 2014

Written by Halee Burg, Esq.



You are in a committed relationship 

You and your significant other desire to live together but are not ready for or interested in marriage

You decide to rent or purchase a property together, or move into a place one of you currently rents or owns  


...You are in good company, joining over eight million cohabiting couples in the United States.


Research reveals that most couples “fall“ or “slide“ into living together.  For the

majority of couples, there is little extended discussion about the why or how of

cohabitation. Not surprisingly, slightly more than half of couples living together

terminate their relationship within two years of moving in together.  Many

relationships suffer in the process; sometimes ending in turmoil, either from the loss

of the significant other, or from the rancor resulting from the absence of advance

discussion or pre-planning concerning what happens in the event of a split.  Others end

because the stress and conflicts of living together are too great.


Many of these conflicts may have been avoided with anticipatory, collaborative

discussions and a mutual understanding of the possible outcomes. Moving in with

someone is not to be taken lightly, and there are a host of issues to be considered.


Topics to Discuss Before Cohabiting 

                                ·       How will you structure your responsibilities?

                                ·      How will you manage the finances of living together?  Is everything split equally?

                                ·      If you co-sign a lease, what happens if the relationship ends before the lease ends? 

                                 ·      If only one of you is on the lease, what happens to each of you if the other wants to                                                                       leave? 

                                 ·      What if the signor wants to end the relationship? 

                                 ·      If you break up, what happens to real and/or personal property you purchase                                                                 together? 

                                 ·      Will you have joint bank and/or utility accounts?  Joint credit cards? 

                                 ·      Who will be responsible for the liabilities on these accounts if your relationship ends?

                                 ·      Will you share a vehicle?  A pet? 

                                 ·      Is all space shared or is there any “private” space? 

                                 ·      Can either of you invite friends over any time, or will you discuss social visits in                                                                advance? 

                                 ·      If one of you has children, or you have children while living together, there are, of                                                    course, many other important issues to consider.


Roommates could also avoid future misunderstandings through thoughtful pre-planning.  Many of these issues are not unique to couples living together.  It would be equally prudent for two or more friends sharing a home, condo or apartment to contemplate and come to mutual understandings regarding important issues.


Mediation offers cohabiting couples and/or friends an opportunity to discuss in advance what the participants would like living together to look like, to anticipate concerns, to consider financial obligations, to discuss day-to-day responsibilities for the living space, and to agree ahead of time what who will be responsible for what, both during and at the end of a period of cohabitation.  


Whether a couple is cohabitating or a group of young post-grads are sharing an apartment, these relationships and/or living arrangement can change quickly and unexpectedly, for instance;

         a girlfriend is blindsided by her boyfriend’s sudden desire to break up;

         a friend decides to move out in two weeks so he or she can move in  with a                                       significant other,

         close friends part ways or someone loses a job and can no longer afford the                                        rent,

         a sudden and serious illness in one’s immediate family requires one to move,

         a roommate receives the last spot on a wait list for medical school,

         a significant other is told she is being transferred to her company’s headquarters                                     on the  opposite coast in a month.

The reasons are legion, the results familiar.  Without a plan, when shared living relationships end, turmoil often begins.



Consider the following 3 scenarios:

Jess and Mike have been together for three years.  While they plan to eventually marry, like many couples, they want to live together now. Why should they each rent when they end up together almost every night?  Jess rents an apartment and Mike moves in.  Mike pays half the monthly rent and related expenses, but is not on the lease.  Jess buys a dog that Mike cares for and adores.  Two years later, Jess tells Mike she’s no longer sure of the relationship and Mike needs to move out next week.   Mike has no right to the apartment, and they never discussed what would happen if their relationship ended.


Ron and Aaron became roommates during graduate school.  While not close friends, they sometimes socialized together and had a workable roommate relationship.  When their roommate relationship began to deteriorate, they sought out mediation to address how they would manage their shared financial obligations for the duration of their lease.  Through mediation, they reached agreements regarding payment of the remaining rent, the disposition of furnishings purchased jointly, and how they would communicate moving forward.


Greg and Sonya have been dating for six years and plan to move in together shortly.  Having seen the relationships of many friends seriously challenged by living together, Sonya asked Greg to enter mediation in order to consider in advance how to best structure their cohabitation relationship. Sonya and Greg agreed on a shared housing budget, geographic search radius, criteria for selection, financial and housing obligations in the event of a break up, and shared responsibilities for care of an apartment.


Mediation can be of great value for cohabiting couples or friends.  Mediation provides a safe and confidential space, with a neutral and impartial third party, in which to discuss issues of mutual concern regarding living together, and to pre-plan for various contingencies.   


At CMDR, we can work with you to develop a plan to support a successful cohabitation relationship.



Free in-person or telephone consultations available Literature and fees are available upon request.
To schedule an appointment, please call 781-239-1600 or e-mail us at cmdr@cmdronline.com