According to Dr. David Wexler in an interview with romanceuniversity.org, "All couples have contracts. It doesn’t matter if they are legally married and have some document from the county to prove it, or not. There is still a contract, written or unwritten, implicit or explicit." A relationship contract is a way to put the unwritten rules of any relationship on paper -- paper is sometimes helpful in states where certain relationships are denied legal protection. Writing the contract involves partners asking each other several probing questions in order to best determine what should go into the contract to satisfy both partners' needs and to avoid potential relationship pitfalls.
Items you will need
- Books on relationship contracts
- Relationship contract templates (optional)
Learn about relationship contracts by perusing books on the subject. Good books include Todd Outcalt's "Before You Say 'I Do': Important Questions for Couples to Ask Before Marriage" and "Designer Marriage: Write Your Own Relationship Contract" by James Park. Toni Ihara and Ralph Warner's "The Living Together Kit: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples" is recommended for non-married couples who want to create legal partnership agreements. The book's most recent editions include the latest changes in state and federal laws applicable to unmarried couples. Same sex couples might benefit by reading "A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples" by Hayden Curry, Denis Clifford and Robin Leonard. Buy copies of these books or borrow them from a library.
Take note of issues covered in these books that you and your partner need to address before writing your contract. Discuss issues like where you will live as a couple and who will relocate if necessary. Have a philosophical discussion on each other's core values, morals and beliefs. Other important issues might include how to handle intrusion on time as a couple by family and friends, any religious issues you have and your individual goals.
Interview each other using suggested questions from the books. Each book lists questions all prospective partners should ask each other about sex, children, past relationships, money, running a household and what happens in the event of a partner's death. Create open emotional space by promising no one will yell or get upset at answers given. Honesty is needed in all matters discussed when preparing a relationship contract, and the time to get everything out in the open is before -- not after -- it's signed. Write down concise answers to questions. The shorter your answers are, the shorter your contract will be. Keep in mind that terms in shorter contracts are easier to remember than terms in longer ones.
Write your contract based on your discussions and the answers to your interview questions. Find a relationship contract template online if needed to help properly format the contract in your word processing document. Examples of contracts are also available in the suggested books. Alternatively, obtain a downloadable relationship contract template online and edit it to suit your needs. Look over your contract before you sign it. Some couples may wish to wait a week before revisiting the contract to make sure no changes are needed before signing it. Sign and date the document with both of your names at the bottom.
Make it legal. Couples wanting a contract as a private testament of love and commitment might opt not to legalize their contract. Other couples may want to make their contracts legally binding for a number of reasons, including to provide financial protection for a partner or children in long term relationships outside of marriage or in instances where a couple's union is not legally recognized. Consult a family lawyer to discuss the legalities of relationship contracts in your state and whether it is necessary to make the contract legal to maximize its benefits for you and your partner. In states that recognize relationship contracts, they have proved helpful in cases where rights like inheritance rights, family insurance coverage, family visitation rights, spousal in-state tuition benefits and the right to adopt each other's children are not extended to all couples.
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