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Unmarried Couples

More couples than ever before are choosing to live together before marriage. Some couples opt to share their lives without getting married at all. Regardless of the ultimate goal of the relationship, unmarried couples may have certain rights and obligations under family law . If you are an unmarried couple and have questions about how family law affects you, you may wish to speak with a qualified attorney who can help you understand your legal rights and obligations .

Unmarried Couples and Property

One of the primary ways in which unmarried couples may be affected by family law is with regards to property. Unmarried couples should consider the following:

  • Buying property jointly – It is important for unmarried couples to decide how the property will be owned (for example, fifty-fifty). There are two types of property designations for unmarried couples:
    • Joint tenants – Unmarried couples that are joint tenants share the property equally and have automatic right of survivorship (that is, if one partner dies, the other inherits the property).
    • Tenants-in-common – If an unmarried couple decides to hold property under this rule, each will own a distinct share (for example 25 vs. 75 percent). If one partner dies, any will that person has will govern the distribution of property , including any distinct property shares.
  • Property issues upon termination of the relationship – Property bought jointly under either of the previous designations will be divided accordingly. Property bought solely and kept separate remains with the sole owner. Property owned by one party (in one name only) but that required the financial contribution of the other party might later be a source of contention between an unmarried couple if they do not have a property agreement.
  • Property rights upon death – Unmarried couples that do not name each other as beneficiaries in a will or other written agreement will have limited property rights upon the death of a partner. Usually, if the deceased person does not have a will, the property will be divided among family members.

Unmarried Couples and Financial Obligations

Unmarried couples may also face a number of issues regarding finances, including financial obligations to one another and to any child who is a product of the relationship.

Generally, unmarried couples have no legal obligation to one another unless they have a contract or agreement stating otherwise. On the other hand, if both parties of the unmarried couple are established as the legal parents of a child, then they both will be held financially responsible for that child and may be ordered to pay child support . Paternity and/or child custody may also be at issue with regard to the separation of an unmarried couple.

Unmarried couples need to make sure their rights are protected when it comes to these and other important matters. If you are an unmarried couple and want to make sure your legal interests are protected, it is best to seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney who can help you understand your rights . Contact us to speak with one of our qualified family law attorneys – FREE of charge.

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