The number of unmarried couples today has skyrocketed, doubling and even tripling the data from a decade ago. The shift from marriage to living together has allowed many couples of today to either consider marriage years after living together or not at all. If you decide that marriage is not the road you would like to take with your significant other, make sure you speak to a family law attorney to better understand the legal issues that happen if you were to split.

With many people choosing to live together with no prospect of marriage insight, there is a need to understand how to deal with issues of separation, especially when such unmarried couples have during their time together amassed and accumulated a great deal of wealth and properties.

For unmarried couples, property sharing when the relationship ends may pose some form of difficulty. However, the law recognizes both parties in the relationship as separate individuals as there was no legal marriage in place to unite both parties. The reality of this is that according to the law, one party may not be entitled to the properties of another, that is, each of the partners in the unmarried relationship has no rights or responsibilities to the other.

When in an unmarried relationship with your partner, a lot of things can go wrong, leading you to suffer immense losses. To ensure that you are well cared for in the aftermath of such an unmarried relationship, below are some of the things that we advise that you take into consideration and keep in mind. Take note that we have also added as section of information regarding unmarried relationships that have already ended but there appears to be some form of property division scuffle in place.

What Happens When You Buy Properties Together

When in an unmarried relationship with your partner, you must consider the pros and cons of joint property purchase as this may come back to bite you in the behind. It makes for a good groundwork to consider how you will own the property once it has been purchased as this will help you to better prepare for the future and other possible eventualities.

As part of the property purchase move, you need to consider the following ownership options as this gives you a level of protection under the law should the relationship fail later in the future.

  • Joint Tenants: The joint tenancy form of ownership is one wherein both parties share the responsibilities on the property equally. All parties involved in a joint tenancy are by law regarded as equal shareholders in the jointly-owned property. In this form of property ownership, however, when one or more of the owners dies, the ownership of the property is by law expressly transferred to the surviving person under what is known as the Right of Survivorship.
  • Tenants-in-Common: Tenants-in-common is a type of ownership that clearly states the direct input and shares of each individual in the property that has been purchased. The percentage of each of the parties may be based on the contribution towards financing the project. In this type of joint property purchase setting, when one of the owners of the property dies, the share of the other is not automatically transferred to the surviving partner but instead, the property becomes a part of the deceased’s estate and will be transferred as determined by the content of the deceased’s will.

Property Division After Breakup or Separation

When unmarried couples break up or separate from one another, oftentimes, one of the parties is more interested in getting compensation for the time that has been wasted with the other. Compensation may, however, be sought in the form of property division or withdrawal of personal shares from properties that have been jointly purchased.

It is, however, important to note that if a property has been purchased with both partner’s name on it, either based on a tenant-in-common agreement or joint tenancy agreement, such division may be complex. The complexity is heightened when both parties’ names are still on the loan at the time of break up.

To successfully navigate this murky water, some common options may be explored to ensure that property division is handled appropriately. Below are some of the options to choose from;

  • Refinancing the mortgage or loan in one of the unmarried partner’s names. This can be done by deciding who is more interested in the home and refinancing the property such that the interested party’s name is only on the home. However, for this to happen, such a person must have a good credit score.
  • Separating partners may choose to sell off the property to pay off the loan or in the event, the loan has been repaid, they may proceed to split the money. In most cases, this is not an attractive option especially if the loan amount is higher than the property’s selling price.
  • Another option is for one of the parties breaking up to agree to absolve the loan and pay it off while the other party walks away. To make this arrangement legally binding, the other party walking away has to be comfortable with their name on the loan until it is fully repaid.
  • Another option would be for both parties to leave the property, whether a house or car to be repossessed by the bank. However, this option can leave both parties exposed to financial woes as it will negatively affect their credit scores.

Mediation may be employed as a way to help both parties who are now separated reach a common solution to the problem of property sharing. It is recommended that when choosing a mediator, an experienced attorney in this area should be selected.

If, however, the property was purchased in the sole name of one of the unmarried partners, then the property will remain as is, and legally be regarded as the property of the person whose name is reflected on the documents. The other party can, however, establish that there was a common intention to purchase the property, although such a partner will be required to provide irrefutable evidence to back such a claim.

What Happens to Properties in Death?

One of the essential developments to consider when in an unmarried relationship is what happens to properties in the event of death.

In the event of death, unmarried couples are treated as separate entities with one having no rights or responsibilities over the other unless otherwise stated in the deceased’s will.

In the event that such an unmarried deceased partner did not prepare a will before death, then his or her properties will according to state laws be shared among families including parents, siblings, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces.

Check out our latest blog post: Preparing An Agreement During A Marital Separation