• Cohabitation Without Marriage - Read It and Weep You Guys
  • August 10, 2017
  • A physician with an excellent income and substantial savings meets an attractive lady who happens to be a very good cook. A few months pass, and they are living together in his house.

    He had a nasty divorce, and is reluctant to marry again. She is likewise not inclined to matrimony. However, they are very happy together. In fact they are in love and devoted to each other. She quits her job to take care of him full time. He becomes her sole support.

    A problem arises. Her appetite for alcohol increases. He convinces himself that he can save her and their relationship and tolerates her drinking. Hoping she will come around if he makes her feel more secure, he also tells her she shouldn’t worry - he will take care of her. They’re not married, so what harm could that do?
    Things go on in this fashion for several more years, while her drinking problem becomes worse. His assurances that he will take care of her financially are not having the desired effect. Doubling down, he adds a place to live as well as money, deeding his house to a revocable trust saying that she gets the house if he predeceases her. Revocable trusts are always revocable, so what harm could that do?

    Eventually she becomes a full blown alcoholic, and the party is over. He asks her to leave. She refuses, and drives him crazy. He files an unlawful detainer action to evict her. She responds with her own lawsuit for breach of contract. The judges say the unlawful detainer action cannot continue until her lawsuit is resolved.

    She demands enough money to support herself for the rest of her life in the style to which she became accustomed during the relationship, including the right to live in his house for free until she dies. Making matters worse, as her lawsuit proceeds she keeps him awake most of the night with high volume television, etc., driving him out of the house and into an apartment.

    His attorney tries everything he can think of to make her lawsuit go away. The judges aren’t having any. The lawsuit cannot be resolved without a settlement or a trial. He tells his attorney that if her attorney can get her cleaned up and sober, she’ll make a convincing witness. It’s a case of he said, she said, and he promised, no he didn’t promise.

    There’s the trust, revocable or not, which corroborates her story, and the relationship lasted well over ten years before it fell apart. Who’s going to believe he never promised? Alcoholism is a disease over which people have little control, isn’t it? Is a jury going to send her away empty handed and homeless after all that time? How can cooking and housework be enough to support such a heavy duty contract? Because the California Supreme Court says they are.

    The risk of an adverse verdict is high if the case is tried. The risk of a huge adverse verdict is also high.

    Two years after he was unable to evict her, settlement negotiations produce a lower than expected agreement on an amount in low six figures. His attorney fees and costs are less, but not a whole lot less.

    Moral of the story: the emotional strain and cost of ending cohabitation without marriage can be comparable to the emotional strain and cost of ending marriage with a divorce. A decision to live together should be made with the same care as a decision to marry.
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