Naomi Cahn

Nonmarital Cohabitants: The US Approach

CO-AUTHORS Barbara Atwood
Houston Journal of International Law
2022 Spring

UVA Law Faculty Affiliations


This article reviews the legal status of nonmarital cohabitation in the United States. The recognition of cohabitants’ claims in the United States has occurred largely through the common law, and the article provides an overview of the patchwork of legal approaches. It shows the continuum of approaches, from states that refuse to recognize cohabitants’ rights drawn from their relationship to jurisdictions that impose status-based obligations. While most states today allow cohabitants to assert claims against one another as a matter of common law, a few state legislatures have enacted statutory provisions governing cohabitants’ contractual claims. The article also provides the first published discussion of the development of the Uniform Law Commission’s new cohabitants’ economic remedies act, and the article concludes with thoughts about possible future directions of the law of nonmarital cohabitation in the United States.


Barbara Atwood & Naomi R. Cahn, Nonmarital Cohabitants: The US Approach, 44 Houston Journal of International Law, 191 (2022).

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