Kevin Qualls Family Law
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Property division matters of unmarried couples-Part I

If an unmarried couple in California or anywhere else in the United States lives under the same roof for a significant amount of time, there is a good chance that the couple might acquire property together. So, what happens in the event that the couple separates? What are the laws that govern property division in such a case?

Property division assumes special importance when the unmarried couple invests in property. In that case, it is important to have an agreement that outlines who owns what and how that property will be divided in the event of a separation. The agreement is not so important for couples who have only been together for a short while and have not bought much property together.

If there is no agreement, there may be a lengthy battle that could be expensive and time-consuming as well. It is probably a good idea for an unmarried couple to draft a cohabitation property agreement that addresses some specific concerns. First, the agreement should address how the assets are owned and by whom. Second, it should cover how the unmarried couple divides expenses and share income.

What about assets that the couple acquired since they were together? How will the unmarried couple manage credit cards, bank accounts and insurance policies? Again, the couple should enter into an agreement that defines the management of the assets.

The property agreement will then outline how the assets will be distributed in the event of a separation. If there is a dispute over property division, the property agreement will address how the dispute will be resolved.

When it comes to ownership of a home, it is important that the property agreement outlines how the property ownership of the home is listed. For instance, if the unmarried couple owns a house jointly, with rights of survivorship, the house automatically passes to the other partner upon the death of the first partner. The property agreement may also list what portion of the house each partner owns and what happens if the unmarried couple breaks up.

Just because a couple is not married does not mean that they shouldn't plan and think about family law issues related to to cohabitation and property ownership.

Source: FindLaw, "Cohabitation Property Rights for Unmarried Couples," Accessed on July 27, 2015

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