Over the past few decades, it has become socially acceptable and popular for unmarried couples to live together. Some of these couples eventually do marry and others live together for years, even decades, without ever formally committing to a marriage contract.
This poses a problem when a cohabitating couple ends their relationship. In many of these cases, the couple has purchased property together or has other shared assets, such as a bank account. Unlike married couples, whose assets are divided by the court during a divorce, unmarried couples do not have legal protections in place for their assets.
Because unmarried partners do not have access to the rights afforded to married couples who are going through a divorce, their property must be divided piecemeal in court. These decisions can be unpredictable because they are decided on a case-by-case basis, rather than according to a set standard.
Each partner retains full ownership of his or her singly-held property. This includes anything that the individual owned before entering the relationship or purchased without help from his or her partner. Even if the partner did contribute financially in some way, this can be difficult to track if the property is only in one partner’s name. For example, if a boyfriend gives his girlfriend $1,000 in cash toward a car that is registered solely to her, he may not be able to recover that $1,000.
If the property in question has both names on its title, such as a house, it may be divided according to the contract that the couple has in place. Unmarried couples may hold property jointly through a joint tenancy agreement or a tenants in common agreement. With a joint tenancy, the each partner owns 50% of the house. Usually, couples with this type of agreement sell their home when they part ways. With a tenants in common agreement, the partners’ shares of the home are not necessarily equal. For example, one partner may own 75% of the home and the other may only own 25%. In cases like this, one partner may opt to buy out the other’s interest or they may simply sell the home and divide the profit according to each party’s interest.
Break ups can be hard, especially when you have to divide your property with your former partner. For legal guidance as you work through this process, call The Law Office of Eric B. Hannum Esq., LLC. at (732) 365-3299 to schedule your free legal consultation with a member of our firm. We can provide you with the legal advice you need and top quality representation for your case.