The Rights of Cohabitating Couples
When a couple lives with one another, or cohabitates, the question of rights often comes up. What happens when the couple lives together for decades, for example, and then splits up? What will happen with the property that they have? This is a question that’s commonly asked by unmarried couples, and the truth is that it can differ based on where they live.
What Affects Division of Property?
Many factors will come into play when it comes to separating property between unmarried couples. This can include how long they’ve been living together, whether they have children, and the location where the couple lives. Of course, these are just some of the factors that can be involved.
In Washington State, for example, it may be possible to be eligible to have the relationship dissolved as a committed intimate relationship. In this case, the couple would likely get everything that a married couple would get in the same situation. They would have the rights to all of the property that was acquired during the relationship. The partners would likely receive an equitable share of the property.
There has to be proof of a relationship for that period. If a couple was constantly breaking up and getting back together, it would not likely count. If they were merely roommates, it would not count either. It needs to have been a committed intimate relationship that essentially looks like a marriage from the outside.
Attorneys helping in these cases would likely want to know the purpose of the relationship, as well. Was it for love and support? Were they raising children together? Were resources pooled or did each person use their own resources for what they needed? If the relationship was like a marriage, then it would count as a committed intimate relationship in these cases.
A lot of questions will come up when trying to determine how property is split. For example, did they act like a married couple? Did one of the partners propose but the other partner said no, they didn’t want to get married? It’s important to note that community property and quasi-community property can both factor into the split assets. Quasi-community property is any property that was acquired by one or both of the partners when living outside of the state.
Although time often plays a role in these cases, it’s not always a major factor. In the case of some relatively short-term relationships of a couple of years, the property might be split equally despite there being no marriage. It will all depend on whether the couple is determined to have a committed intimate relationship.
In Washington, cohabitating couples will not get spousal maintenance fees, and they will not get attorney fees if they need an attorney to help them with their case. If they were married, they would likely receive spousal maintenance and attorney fees.
Arizona is a community property state, as well. However, the rules in Arizona differ greatly from Washington. An unmarried couple that is splitting up in Arizona has no rights to one another’s property. This is something that those who are living with one another will need to understand. They can’t assume that they will be able to get something from the other party in the event of a breakup. If there is an agreement made between the parties, it is essential to get it in writing.
All relationships are different, which means it can often be difficult to sort through all of the various factors that could affect property division. Of course, the laws between the states are vastly different, as well. The culture regarding how breakups and divorce are viewed in the eyes of the law is different between the different states, too.
The location where you live can play a huge role in what happens with property after breaking up. It’s important to have a good, solid understanding of the rules where you live if you are going through a situation like this. It’s also important to work with an attorney that knows and understands these laws and who can help you.
The Case for Cohabitation Agreements
Because property can be split amongst a couple even though they aren’t married, having a cohabitation agreement can be a good idea. These are often used for those who want to live with one another, but who aren’t getting married. The agreement can provide some protection to the parties, so they know what happens with property if they do break up. They might also include what happens if one party dies.
These agreements can help to make it clear what happens in the case of a breakup, which is very beneficial. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the rules and regulations of cohabitation agreements can differ.
For those who are married, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are important, as well. These, along with cohabitation agreements, will allow you to create your own construct in the event of a breakup or a divorce. This allows the parties to create the agreements when neither party is angry. It allows the couple to discuss what should be done and what they need to do in the event of a breakup in terms of assets and finances. It also means that there won’t likely be any large surprises that occur if a breakup does occur.
Get Help from an Attorney
Whether a couple is considering moving in with one another and needs to know what type of agreements they might want to have in place, or they are part of a couple that is now going through a breakup after years of living together, it’s important to work with an attorney.
Understanding all of the intricacies of the law can be difficult for those who are not well-versed in the field. There are many things to consider when it comes to the rights of cohabitating couples, particularly when it comes to property division after a split. It’s important to protect your own interests and to make sure that the property is divided evenly if it’s allowed in that state.