Do You Have Any Rights If You Aren’t Married? Family Law Disputes in Cohabitation
More and more couples are choosing to live together without getting married. In fact, while the US marriage rate has stayed around 50 percent for some time, according to the Pew Research Center, more adults are now living with their partners instead of getting married.
This is understandably of concern to a number of individuals who have come to depend on their partners and/or sacrificed their careers for the sake of their relationships, and may be concerned about their futures. This also affects unmarried individuals who have jointly purchased property and assets together, perhaps assuming that if they ever separated, those assets would be shared or equitably split between them.
The Law in & Outside of Florida
Only eight states explicitly recognize common law marriage in their statutes, with several others recognizing it via case law, and Florida isn’t one of them. This means that if a couple splits up, there is no equitable property division provided for unmarried couples who simply cohabitate. Instead, each leaves with whatever they earned during the relationship, and takes whatever property is titled in their names.
Still, it is important to note that Florida does recognize common law marriages validated in any of the other states that recognize it (Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, Utah), and, in addition, also recognizes any common law marriages entered into in Florida prior to January 1, 1968. This means that any couples who fall into these categories possess the same privileges and rights that spouses do (including for example Social Security, which follows state law).
Preventing Disputes Through Cohabitation Agreements
Still, this excludes most Florida couples cohabitating together. As a result, some contemplate working with family law attorneys to enter into a cohabitation agreement because, without anything being in writing, both parties are left vulnerable, which not only means no right to make medical decisions for or inherit from each other, but also no legal guidelines concerning how to divide property that both individuals purchased if it is titled in one person’s name only.
Cohabitation agreements typically look very similar to marital agreements and, at a minimum:
- State that a couple is not married
- Identify which individual owns which assets and, in the event of a breakup, how those assets will be split up
- Address what will be done concerning jointly owned debt and/or property
When Cohabitation Leads to Litigation
Because more and more couples who are cohabitating together are also having children together, child custody is still an issue for many and warrants many of these couples working with family law attorneys if they separate and cannot agree on a timesharing schedule. It also doesn’t mean that cohabitation does not come with messy litigation under some circumstances.
If You Have Questions About Cohabitation & Your Rights, Contact Our Florida Family Law Attorneys
What makes up a “family” today doesn’t necessarily have to involve marriage. Similarly, just because a couple isn’t married doesn’t mean that contentious family law issues won’t arise in a number of circumstances. If you have any questions about your rights with respect to family law, contact the Arwani Law Firm for experienced assistance from an Orlando family lawyer.