A Complete Guide to Cohabitation Laws in Missouri


Learn about Missouri’s cohabitation laws, how they impact your rights, and why legal guidance is crucial. Brought to you by The Carson Law Firm.

How Does Cohabitation Work in Missouri Law

Cohabitation laws have become increasingly important as more couples choose to live together in relationships without formal marriage. These laws encompass the legal rights and responsibilities of cohabiting partners, addressing crucial matters such as property division, child custody, and support in the event of a breakup.

While children’s rights remain unchanged, regardless of their parents’ marital status, property rights can differ significantly. In Missouri, for example, unmarried people don’t have recognized property rights. Therefore, it might be a good idea to establish a cohabitation agreement to ensure everyone’s rights are protected.

This guide has all the information you need on cohabitation laws in Missouri and how to protect your rights as a cohabiting partner.

Understanding the Cohabitation Agreement in Missouri

A cohabitation agreement is a formal and legally binding contract between a couple who decides to live together without getting married. It’s all about clarifying the financial commitments and responsibilities of each partner.

Keep in mind that it’s different from a prenuptial agreement, which is made before marriage. A cohabitation agreement is specifically designed for couples who don’t plan to marry or can’t legally do so. Cohabitation agreements are governed by contract law.

When a couple who has a cohabitation agreement decides to tie the knot, they must create a new prenuptial agreement before their wedding day. It’s important to remember that the cohabitation agreement becomes invalid once the couple is legally married. After marriage, the relationship between the couple and their rights are governed by family law.

It is highly recommended that both partners seek legal representation during the drafting process to ensure fairness for everyone involved.

Legal Rights of Cohabiting Couples in Missouri

In Missouri, cohabiting couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples. While they can jointly own property and make agreements, they may face challenges in areas such as inheritance, medical decisions, and financial support. These issues are accentuated when a couple decides to end their cohabitation.

Before separation, cohabiting couples must consider property division and make arrangements for their children and pets.


In Missouri, the law treats matters such as child support and custody similarly for couples with minor children, whether they are going through a divorce or separating after living together. Parents share equal responsibility for their children, regardless of their marital status or legal ties. However, a court order is required to establish each parent’s rights and responsibilities.

Parents have the option to initiate legal proceedings to establish child support and custody rights, even if they are not going through a divorce. This means that cohabiting couples with minor children can still bring child custody and child support matters before a court.

They can develop a mutually agreed-upon parenting plan that covers important aspects such as the child’s residence, schooling, healthcare, and education decisions.

Furthermore, parents can work together to determine the financial responsibilities involved in raising their child. If they reach a mutual understanding, the court can confirm and formalize the agreement. However, if they are unable to agree, the court has the power to step in and make decisions on these matters.


The legal framework surrounding property in this particular situation remains ambiguous. In the context of a divorce, the court establishes regulations about both marital and non-marital property. Non-marital property, which is owned by an individual before marriage, remains with them even after the marriage ends. Conversely, marital property is divided between the two parties.

However, when couples simply cohabitate, the court is not required to address the matter of marital property. Additionally, Missouri law does not explicitly outline provisions for palimony or spousal support, although there may be circumstances where individuals are reimbursed for contributions made to benefit the home or the couple as a whole.

Does Missouri Recognize Common Law Marriage?

In the State of Missouri, common-law marriages are not recognized. According to state law, any common-law marriages formed in Missouri are considered “null and void.”

Instead, Missouri requires individuals who wish to marry to obtain a marriage license and have their marriage solemnized by an authorized person, typically a judge or an individual authorized to officiate marriages within a religious tradition.

Why You Should Consult a Family Lawyer Before Signing a Cohabitation Agreement

Many people believe that by signing a cohabitation agreement with a witness, they automatically gain legal protection in the event of a separation. However, this assumption is incorrect. Cohabitation agreements only hold legal weight if they are accurately and meticulously drafted.

Therefore, both partners must consult separate legal representatives who can provide unbiased advice on the terms of the legal agreement. A family lawyer ensures the utmost protection and clarity for all parties involved.

Family lawyers safeguard your rights by:

  • Providing counsel on the suitability of the terms for your best interests

  • Helping you understand your rights and responsibilities with clarity and precision

  • Advocating for you during negotiations

Seeking legal counsel also helps prevent misunderstandings and disputes that may occur when ending a cohabitation relationship. To ensure the best outcome, both you and your unmarried partner should consult with a family attorney who can offer reliable and unbiased legal advice.

The Carson Law Firm Can Help You

Cohabiting couples in Missouri face various legal challenges, like child custody, dividing assets, and spousal support. Additionally, individuals with ex-spouses who start living with new domestic partners may need to pursue post-divorce modifications to child support or parenting time arrangements after divorce. In any of these situations, it’s crucial to consult an experienced family attorney.

Here at The Carson Law Firm, we understand how sensitive these cases can be. Our team of family law attorneys is dedicated to supporting you and providing the representation you need to navigate through challenging family disputes. Get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can assist you.

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