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Florida Law & Unmarried Same-Sex Partners: Cohabitation Agreements

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The first state in this country to recognize same-sex marriage was Massachusetts in May of 2004. Alternatively, the state of Florida has permitted same-sex marriage since the United States Supreme Court’s June 2015 decision was handed down. Obviously, committed same-sex relationships have pre-existed both of these dates and in many instances, these couples relied on oral cohabitation agreements. In other cases, same-sex couples chose to rely on written financial agreements that more clearly defined the financial responsibility each individual had. Recently, however, there has been debate over whether or not these oral cohabitation agreements entitle the individuals to damages should something go wrong.

The Case 

In a recent case out of the Fourth District Appeals Court in Florida, two men met and became a couple. Years later they decided to pool their financial resources, effectively acting as a married couple. Prior to this agreement, they had a discussion as to exactly what each individual was responsible for and what they would bring to the table. In the end they both agreed and were, in essence, a married couple. The relationship lasted nearly 50 years before one of the men (Anthony) decided to sue the other (Richard) and asked the court to divide the couple’s home. Soon thereafter Richard responded by filing a counterclaim seeking damages in the amount of half of the couple’s joint accounts. Ultimately, the trial court heard the case and sided with Richard.

Following the trial court’s decision, Anthony appealed but to no avail as the appeals court also ruled in favor of Richard. The appeal’s court cited the couple’s original cohabitation agreement, and decided that agreement was valid and Richard was entitled to the damages he requested. The court also noted that the agreement was valid even if it was never put in writing. They found that there is nothing in Florida law that invalidates an oral-cohabitation agreement, so long as the couple had a history of proof of actually living out the details of the agreement.

Take-Aways

Both court’s rulings underscored the value of an agreement whether the agreement is written or verbal. The rulings showed that no matter the type of agreement, should both parties agree to and abide by the agreement then the agreement is valid. In this case, Richard was able to show decades of records and facts that proved that the couple abided by the original oral-cohabitation agreement, thus, Richard was entitled to damages when Anthony decided to file suit.

Let Us Assist You with Your Case

Regardless of the type of relationship you are in or the type of agreement you have made, family law issues can still influence your life. While married couples have much more clear legal regulations governing their relationship, this case proves that oral agreements also have strong legal standing. If you are concerned about the legality of your relationship or you want to ensure that your rights are being protected, it is wise that you speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney. Attorney Sandra Bonfiglio understands the complexities of relationship agreements and has the skill to ensure your interests are being protected. If you are in need of assistance call 954-945-7591 for a free consultation.

Resources:

scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=16499869016395834644&hl=en&as_sdt=6&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr

supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf

edca.4dca.org/DCADocs/2016/0019/160019_DC08_05032017_091810_i.pdf

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