In our last post, we began a discussion on the legal measures that can protect unmarried partners in a breakup. In that post, we discussed protecting parental rights.
In this post, we will focus on protecting yourself financially.
California does not recognize common law marriage (unless you live as a married couple, by common law, in a state that recognized common law and you move to California where you decide to pursue a divorce). As such, no matter how long you stayed with a partner, property division will depend on property ownership. Any asset or debt you acquired yourself belongs to you and will likely stay with you if you break up. If you contributed financially to property owned by your partner, you will need to show evidence of your intention to share in the property.
If you purchase a home or other significant asset together, you will own that property as joint tenants or tenants-in-common. This will determine how property will be divided if the parties separate.
In other words, dividing property can seem highly unfair and unpredictable for unmarried couples.
To protect property and make division easier, couples may create a cohabitation agreement. This document details their finances and dictates how to divide property in the event of a breakup.
Your financial resources
If you are not married, you will not be entitled to receive or obligated to pay spousal support if the relationship ends. However, there is the potential that a person could collect a form of support referred to as palimony.
As this article explains, palimony is a civil action that allows a person to pursue financial remedies after a breakup. A person will typically need to show that there was a contract or implied contract between cohabitating parties that one person would support the other.
The courts will then consider many factors similar to those they consider in spousal support requests and determine whether palimony is appropriate.
To make this easier, though, couples can come to an agreement in a cohabitation agreement or other legal document.
It is not mandatory that couples pursue any of the legal remedies we discussed in these last two posts. However, they can provide critical protection for those who are not entitled to the protections that come with marriage. As such, they are worth exploring with an attorney.