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
- 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.