Massachusetts law about unmarried couples

A compilation of laws, cases, and web sources on the legal issues affecting unmarried couples.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.209C, § 10 Child custody. "Prior to or in the absence of an adjudication or voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, the mother shall have custody of a child born out of wedlock."

Selected case law

Charron v. Amaral, 451 Mass. 767 (2008)
"A claim for a loss of consortium cannot arise unless the family member has, inter alia, a legal relationship with the injured third party. In the case of adult couples, the legal relationship is established by marriage. This court consistently has rejected the idea that cohabiting adults, even those who could demonstrate a commitment to each other, could recover" for loss of consortium.

Feliciano v. Rosemar Silver Co, 401 Mass. 141, 142 (1987)
The court will not recognize a "right to recover for loss of consortium by a person who has not accepted the correlative responsibilities of marriage."

Wilcox v. Trautz, 427 Mass. 326 (1998)
Case discusses issues involved in dividing the property of unmarried cohabitants at some length. "To the extent we have not previously done so, we adopt the view that unmarried cohabitants may lawfully contract concerning property, financial, and other matters relevant to their relationship. Such a contract is subject to the rules of contract law and is valid even if expressly made in contemplation of a common living arrangement, except to the extent that sexual services constitute the only, or dominant, consideration for the agreement, or that enforcement should be denied on some other public policy ground."

Worcester Housing Authority v. Mass. Commission Against Discrimination, 406 Mass. 244 (1989)
"It is unlawful to refuse to rent to or lease to or withhold public housing benefits from persons because they are unmarried."

Web sources

Cohabitation agreements, Findlaw.
"Includes information about when you might need a cohabitation agreement; what it can do for you; the different ways they can be drafted; and related matters such as wills and durable power of attorney."

Legal guide for lesbian and gay couples, Nolo, 2018
This online book is not specific to Massachusetts. Requires free library card for access

Living together: a legal guide for unmarried couples, Nolo, 2017
Online version of a popular book includes: The Legal State of Living Together; Living Together Agreements: Why and How; Debt, Credit, Taxes, and More: Practical Aspects of Living Together; Renting and Sharing a Home; Buying a House Together; Starting a Family; You and Your Ex-Spouse and Children From a Prior Relationship; Wills and Estate Planning; When Unmarried Couples Separate. Requires free library card for access

Property rights of unmarried couples in Massachusetts, MA Divorce
"Frequently asked questions to help unmarried couples determine who owns what."

Print sources

Massachusetts domestic relations, Lexis, with supplement. § 15-48, Rights of Unmarried Parties (Cohabitation)

Massachusetts practice series vols. 1-3 (Family law and practice) 4th ed., Thomson Reuters, 2013, Chapter 24. The Legal Status of Non-Marital Unions and Chapter 25. Rights, Duties and Liabilities of Domestic Partners



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: August 27, 2019