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Cohabitation is very common in Norway. By cohabitation is meant an arrangement whereby two adults live together without having signed a written legal contract that regulates their relationship. In the case of marriage, this is regulated by law. For several reasons, it is recommended that cohabitants regulate their relationship in a cohabitation agreement.

In principle, cohabitants are regarded as independent individuals who are not obliged to provide for each other. They are only liable for their own debts and do not, as a rule, inherit each other. There are two exceptions as regards inheritance, however, whereby the surviving cohabitant may be entitled to inherit or to retain undivided possession of the estate.

-      If cohabitants have had or are expecting joint children

-      If they have been cohabitants for five years

Retaining undivided possession of an estate means that the surviving cohabitant keeps possession of their joint property when their partner dies.

In the case of the breakdown of a marriage, the spouses will be bound by legal rules as regards dividing up property. If cohabitants do not have a cohabitation contract, there will in principle not be any legal settlement concerning property. In practice, however, it will be difficult to divide property and decide who owns what. A cohabitation contract or agreement will help in this context.

If cohabitants have joint children, they both have a duty to provide for the children, also after the breakdown of the relationship. Here, there are laws and rules that apply and that cannot be changed in a cohabitation contract.

Rights of inheritance cannot be included in a cohabitation contract. It is therefore a good idea to write a mutual will. A will is a document explaining who one wishes to inherit one's property. It must be signed by both cohabitants at the same time, and there must be two witnesses present.  These witnesses cannot be relatives of the cohabitants, and they must declare that the cohabitants were in full possession of their mental faculties and not under any form of pressure.

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