Many couples choose to live together before marriage, and some couples share their lives without getting married at all. Unmarried couples normally have certain rights and obligations under family law.
Unmarried couples may be affected by family law if they buy property, and they must decide how the property will be owned (for example, fifty-fifty). There are typically two ownership routines for unmarried couples:
- Joint tenants – Unmarried couples that are joint tenants share the property equally and have automatic right of survivorship (that is, if one partner dies, the other inherits the property).
- Tenants-in-common – If an unmarried couple decides to hold property under this rule, each will own a distinct share (for example 25 vs. 75 percent). If one partner dies, any will that person has will govern the distribution of property, including any distinct property shares.
Unmarried couples will also face financial obligations to one another for any child who is a product of the relationship.
Generally, unmarried couples have no legal obligation to one another unless they have a contract or agreement stating otherwise. On the other hand, if both parties of the unmarried couple are established as the legal parents of a child, then they both will be held financially responsible for that child and may be ordered to pay child support. Paternity and/or child custody may also be at issue with regard to the separation of an unmarried couple.
Unmarried couples need to make sure their rights are protected when it comes to these and other important matters.