Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Same-Sex Family Law

Before same-sex marriage became legal in Florida, many couples opted to enter cohabitation agreements which spelled out their rights and responsibilities in the event of their break-up. Although it is usually best to have a cohabitation agreement reduced to writing, Florida law recognizes oral cohabitation agreements between unmarried parties. The case Armao v. McKenney, 218 So.3d 481 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017) shows us how a court determines the existence of an oral contract in these cases. 

The parties in this case held themselves out to be a couple for forty-six years. They shared finances by buying and selling property, and opening a joint account through which they passed their transactions and income. They did not have a written agreement for cohabitation but in many respects lived and transacted with each other under the terms of a cohabitation agreement. The couple unfortunately split and when it was time to divide the joint account and real estate titled in both names, a dispute arose. 

The trial court found that even though the parties did not have a written agreement, it was clear from their conduct that they intended to have one, and that the oral contract they had was valid. After finding the couple had about $1 million in their joint account at the time of their split, the trial court inexplicably awarded three quarters of this amount to one of the parties even though it should have awarded half of the account to each party based on how the parties shared finances throughout their relationship.

On appeal, the finding of the oral contract was upheld but the award of over half the account to one party was reversed because the evidence supported an award of half to each. Cohabitation agreements may be optimal for parties who do not wish to get married but want to build a life together. A same-sex family lawyer can help you navigate the nuances of a cohabitation agreement to help you protect your future as best as possible. Contact one today to set a consultation to discuss your case.