The Rights of Unmarried Couples in Oregon

The average American family continues to shift and evolve, and more and more families are living together without the legal protections of marriage. While these unmarried couples may cohabitate without a problem, there are other complications they may face regarding their legal rights, especially if they decide to split up after spending a number of years together. In Oregon, unmarried couples have the right to access the judicial system for any of their legal concerns, but the same standards that apply to married couples will not apply to those that are unmarried.

What rights do we have if we choose to separate?

The rights of unmarried couples are much different than the legally married ones, making the situation more complicated when children or significant amounts of property are involved. While married couples have to go through a straightforward divorce process, unmarried couples will end up solving a lot of the legal leg work on their own.

How Property Is Considered When Unmarried

Married couples have the benefit of equitable distribution laws concerning their property in the event of a divorce. However, unmarried couples (who do not have a valid common law marriage from another state) are not privy to the same laws of equitable distribution, though they do have some similarities.

The property rights that are enforced include:

  • Each partner is entitled to their own property and debts unless they have been deliberately combined
  • A written agreement to share assets overcomes the legal presumption of independent property
  • Jointly owned property is owned in equal parts by each partner

Depending on the circumstances of a family, some property concerns can be addressed similarly to business dissolutions, but others will need more aggressive legal representation.

Custody: Unmarried Parents

If the biological or legal parents of a child are unmarried, child support, visitation, and custody concerns will be considered the same way that they are for married couples. If the couple is no longer together, the court will not automatically grant custody and visitation, as in a divorce case. The parents must bring one another to court to resolve these issues. The parent that provides the most stable environment for the child will likely be the one granted custodial rights to the child, while the other parent will receive visitation rights.

One way to avoid these legal concerns is to work with an attorney to develop a cohabitation agreement. These agreements outline the rights and responsibilities of each person in the relationship and provide a guideline to follow when dividing property and determining child support/custody. This can ensure that both parties involved in the relationship are granted the legal rights afforded to married couples.

Are you unmarried and wondering what legal rights you and your partner have? Contact McKinley Irvin to avoid finding yourself in a difficult legal situation.