Category: Postnuptial Agreement

Common Law Marriage and Cohabitation Agreements in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Andy M. Eliot

Is Common Law Marriage Recognized in Connecticut?

No.  It is a common misconception that if unmarried couples reside together for a long enough period of time in Connecticut, a “Common Law” marriage is created, from which certain legal rights (such as alimony or property distribution rights) arise.  In fact, Common Law marriage is not recognized in Connecticut and, accordingly, no legal rights or consequences are accorded to unmarried couples who may reside together in a long-term romantic relationship.

Are there any Exceptions to the General Rule that Common Law Marriage is not Recognized in Connecticut?

There is one narrow exception to this general rule.  Generally, the validity of a marriage in Connecticut is determined by the law of the state in which the relationship was created.  Accordingly, if a couple established a Common Law marriage in a state that recognizes such relationships, the Common Law marriage that was established in the other state will be recognized in Connecticut.  The law of the state in which the common law marriage was claimed to have been contracted will determine the existence and validity of such a relationship.

May Unmarried Couples Enter into Binding Legal Agreements from Which Financial Rights and Obligations Arise?

Yes.  It is not uncommon for couples who are involved in a committed relationship, but who do not wish or intend to marry, to desire that certain financial rights and obligations that might otherwise only arise by way of marriage apply to them.  While cohabitation alone does not create any contractual relationship between cohabitating parties, or impose other legal duties upon such parties, in such scenarios the parties may enter into a written agreement, commonly referred to as a “Cohabitation Agreement.”

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement is a contract between unmarried cohabitants which allows the parties to contract to certain financial rights and obligations arising from their relationship, notwithstanding their intention to remain unmarried.  The state of Connecticut recognizes the legal validity of such agreements.  Typically, such agreements address rights and obligations pertaining to financial support (akin to alimony), or distribution of property in the event the relationship ends.

Are Cohabitation Agreements Enforceable in the same Manner as Divorce Agreements?

NoAlthough Cohabitation Agreements are recognized in Connecticut, financial disputes between unmarried cohabitants emanating from such agreements must be resolved by means outside the statutory scheme for dissolution of marriage.  Specifically, this means that Cohabitation Agreements must be considered under general contract principles.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have experience drafting and negotiating Cohabitation Agreements for clients throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut.

Postnuptial Agreements in Connecticut Part II: Is my Postnuptial Agreement Enforceable?

As discussed in Part I of this series, many clients come to our office from various towns in Connecticut, including Greenwich and Westport wondering whether a Postnuptial Agreement is a good legal option available to them. Once a client decides that a Postnuptial Agreement is appropriate, the next step is ensuring that a court will enforce it. When courts analyze the enforceability of a Postnuptial Agreement, they apply a higher standard of scrutiny than they do in assessing other types of contracts. This is because unlike many other contracts, upon entrance into a Postnuptial Agreement, husbands and wives share a special fiduciary relationship, and typically trust one another. Bedrick v. Bedrick, 300 Conn. 691 at 698 (2011) at 702. As a result, the parties often proceed less prudently than they would when entering into other types of agreements.

The courts apply a two part test when they examine the enforceability of a Postnuptial Agreement. The first part of the analysis for a court is assessing whether the Postnuptial Agreement is fair and equitable at the time of signing. In order for the Postnuptial Agreement to be fair and equitable at the time of signing, the parties to a Postnuptial Agreement must consent to the terms of the agreement, without undue influence, fraud or duress. Additionally, the parties must be provided with an opportunity to read and fully understand the terms of the Agreement. Courts will consider each party’s educational background, vocational experience, his or her age, and any other factors, which might affect his or her understanding of the Postnuptial Agreement at the time of execution. Prior to execution, both parties must also be provided with full disclosure of the value of the other party’s property, both real and
personal, as well as the other party’s income and liabilities. Additionally, the parties must have been provided with an adequate amount of time to consult with and review the terms of the Postnuptial Agreement with counsel. Courts will examine all of these factors and the terms of the Postnuptial Agreement under the totality of the circumstances in order to determine whether the Agreement was fair and equitable at the time of execution.

Additionally, Postnuptial Agreements must not be unconscionable at the time of dissolution. Postnuptial Agreements are unconscionable if they would work an injustice to either party; unfairness or inequity alone is not enough. For example, even if an Agreement results in an inequitable distribution of the assets and liabilities, this does not mean that the agreement is unconscionable. While this may seem straightforward, as the Connecticut Supreme Court notes in Bedrick, no agreement can possibly anticipate all future events, including the loss of a job, or even relocation to another state. As a result of these unforeseen circumstances, at the time of dissolution a term which originally resulted in an unequal distribution of the assets, may now work an injustice to either party. At Broder & Orland, LLC, our lawyers are well versed in the complexities of a Postnuptial Agreement and the issues that arise concerning enforceability. We are adept at helping clients navigate through the process.

POSTNUPTIAL AGREEMENTS IN CT PART I: IS IT RIGHT FOR ME?

Many clients come into our office from the towns of Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Rowayton, Stamford, and Westport, wondering whether they should enter into a Postnuptial Agreement. In general terms, a Postnuptial Agreement is a contract between a husband and wife entered into after their wedding ceremony, anywhere from weeks to years later. Postnuptial Agreements are often created in the interest of preserving the marriage, and encouraging the private resolution of family issues. Historically, the state of Connecticut disfavored divorces, and found postnuptial agreements akin to divorce and contrary to public policy. In 2011, the state’s position shifted and in Bedrick v. Bedrick, the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the enforceability of Postnuptial Agreements finding them consistent with public policy. As part of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision, the Court acknowledged that Postnuptial Agreements help privately resolve marital conflicts, protect third party interests, and address the parties’ financial concerns.

Continue reading “POSTNUPTIAL AGREEMENTS IN CT PART I: IS IT RIGHT FOR ME?”