What's a Cooling Off Clause? And, Why Is it Important to Include in Your Living Together Contract?

May 27, 2015


What Is a Cooling Off Clause?

For as much as you may enjoy the company of your living partner, there are times when you are simply not getting along. A cooling off clause is designed for just those times. In the event that either or both parties is having problems coping with the relationship, cooling off clauses provide a written record of what types of action you have agreed upon to take should such a situation arise. Some courts will insist on enforcing a cooling off clause before issuing a divorce decree.


Why Is a Cooling Off Clause Important in a Living Together Contract?

A cooling off clause is important in a living together contact because it acts to protect the interests of both parties. As opposed to having one party take off with all the valuables, cooling off clauses contractually bind one to a certain course of action. These clauses give both parties to the contract peace of mind, a sense of security regarding the permanency of the relationship, and a sense of security regarding their belongings.


Writing a Cooling Off Clause

There is no set standard for cooling off clauses. Ultimately, the choice will be up to you (and perhaps your lawyers) as to how you write a cooling off clause. Different living partners have different ways of addressing different issues, but on the whole a few generalized approaches have worked: 

  • Vacation/Separation clauses: As a precursor to legal separation or abandonment of the relationship, one party can separate from the other via a vacation or similar arrangement. If at the end of this time, the parties cannot reconcile, then both parties will move on.  Some parties do agree on one counseling session before calling it quits.

  • Time-off request option: Either party requests a cooling off period for any reason. Time is spent alone and then the parties reconvene to discuss further action.

  • Mediation option: At the request of either party both parties agree to attend a minimum amount of counseling sessions or mediation with a professional before making the decision to end the relationship.

How Long Does a Cooling Off Clause Last?

The length of a cooling off period differs between the contract, state requirements, and other factors, such as whether young children are involved. State requirements can vary from a few days to six months.


Are Cooling Off Clauses Enforceable against the Other Party?

The answer to this question depends on how the contract and more particularly the cooling off clause is written. If the contract is very loose and does not pay attention to detail or standard contract form, then the clause is probably not enforceable. Oral contracts, for these reasons, are not likely to be enforced.  On the other hand if the contract is detailed and written in proper form, then the clause may be enforceable. 


Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me Write a Cooling Off Clause?

Having a strong contract is important, and you will want to consult a family lawyer experienced in writing contracts. Paying the lawyer to help you in the end is always worth the price to have peace of mind.


Fanning Law, LLC Can Help

The facts of each case are unique and the laws surrounding marriage-like relationships are complicated.  This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. It is not legal advice. For more information about your specific questions, contact Bill Fanning at Fanning Law, LLC - The Offices of William C. Fanning, Jr. - 301.934.3620 or at www.fanninglawllc.com.  


Article provided by Legal Match.  Authored by Ken LaMance, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law Last Modified: 06-26-2014 04:51 PM PDT

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