Generally speaking, people are waiting until later in life to marry. For some, this means living together for years before choosing to tie the knot. Others live together with a life partner for decades without ever marrying. However, simply because a couple chooses not to marry does not mean that they are immune to family law issues such as child custody, child support, and even property division.
When a couple marries, they essentially enter into a contract. However, unmarried couples aren’t subject to the laws that create the marital contract. Yet, these couples can choose to enter into non-marital agreements that can address a number of family law issues, including how property and debt will be handled as it is accumulated and in the event that the relationship comes to an end.
There are two ways that these contracts can be created. The first is through implication. Here, the parties may have had discussions about these family law issues and how they would be resolved in the event of separation. Yet, here the agreements are not commemorated in writing. The second way that a non-marital agreement can be created is through an explicit written agreement. This process, obviously, is preferred, as it leaves little to no room for interpretation with regard to rights, responsibilities and obligations of the relationship. If neither of these situations are in place, then a court may have discretion to determine how to handle division of property and debt, if the matter is taken to court.
Unmarried couples are choosing to live together much more frequently before getting married, if they choose to get married at all. Just because they are not married does not mean that they shouldn’t do everything they can to protect themselves. For this reason, those who find themselves in cohabitation with another may want to speak with a legal professional about their options.