Marriage is still alive and well in the state of New York, but many residents choose to cohabit instead of tying the knot. Couples have chosen to live together over marriage for many years, but most of them approach this big decision casually. Love and romance can come and go, but without protection, would-be lovers may also lose their assets when love takes a leave of absence.

It seems like a contract or a cohabitation agreement might suck all the joy out of a loving relationship. However, as many have discovered, such an agreement does very little harm to a loving relationship. To get you thinking wisely about such a document, take a look at the following elements to include in your agreement. An experienced family law attorney can help you draft important documents like this.

Managing expenses: Under the guidance of a skilled legal professional, you and your partner can make important decisions about how to manage your expenses. Having clearly defined expectations in writing can eliminate disputes over your bills.

Dispute resolution: Even the soundest relationship can suffer from serious disagreements at times. A well-drafted cohabitation contract can include details about how the parties resolve such disputes.

Addressing property: “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine” sounds great. However, it is always critical to address how to handle property in all relationships. Cohabitation agreements can define how you and your partner manage your money together or separately.

Death or separation: Although unpleasant to think about, addressing death or separation now benefits both parties. For example, if you have children and you die, your life partner might not receive any of your property even if you desire it. To change this, make sure you address what happens to your possessions in your cohabitation agreement.

For answers to additional family law questions, consider consulting with an experienced attorney near you.