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Divorce and the unmarried

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2021 | Divorce

More American are unmarried. In 2018, the year with the most recent available data, 35 percent of Americans between 25 and 50 never married. This figure was just 9 percent in 1970. More unmarried couples now live together.

But unmarried couples, like married couples, end their relationships. While they do not have to go through a divorce proceeding, they may have to undergo a legal process to deal with issues like property division, child custody and support. However, this process is usually easier for unmarried couples.

Property rights

In a divorce, spouses may usually keep the personal belonging they had before marriage and receive a fair share of the marital property the couple acquired before marriage. The division of property is different, however, for unmarried couples.

If the couple was not legally married, each person may keep the assets they had when they entered the relationship and anything they purchased or earned when the couple was together.

If the unmarried couple intentionally combined their assets, each individual owns an equal half of the property. One partner may be able to obtain a larger share if they made a greater contribution.

The house belongs to the persons named on the deed. A partner does not have a claim to the home unless they are also named on the deed.

Spousal support

A judge may order spousal support if one spouse earns much more than the other or if a spouse is financially dependent on the other.

There is no alimony for unmarried couples. There may be support if the couple entered an agreement to pay post-separation support.

Child custody and support

Children can complicate the breakup of an unmarried couple.  Couples who are legal parents and jointly raising their children may negotiate a joint agreement without having to go to court.

If an unmarried couple cannot reach an agreement, this family law issue is addressed through the procedures governing married couples. If one person is the legal parent, the nonlegal parent has no custody or visitation rights or support obligations.

Living together agreements

Unmarried couples do not have the legal relationship that legally married couples have. In actuality, however, unmarried couples share costs and responsibilities.

Unmarried couples can enter a living together contract or cohabitation agreement. These set forth expectations about issues like property, finances, expenses, and childcare. These contracts may outline expectations and protect each partner if their relationship ends.

An attorney can assist couples with preparing agreements that govern these relationships. They can also help protect their rights when there are disputes over these issues when couples end their relationship.