Berman & Asbel, LLP

3 Legal Issues Facing Unmarried Couples

According to recent census data, only about 50% of adult couples over the age of 18 are married. This represents a dramatic change from 1960 when the rate of married couples was 72%.

Being an unmarried couple in a committed relationship has become a growing trend among adults. Although it does eliminate the need to go through a divorce if things don't work out, it also creates some problems and legal complications regarding your rights and your partner's rights.

Property ownership

If your committed relationship begins to dissolve and disputes regarding property ownership arise with the break up, what do you do? Well, you might consider having a cohabitation agreement in place to establish respective rights and responsibilities regarding a shared home. You will also want to be aware of the financial and legal ramifications of cosigned and joint loans. Talk to a family law attorney to help you plan wisely.

Parental rights and obligations

Raising a child with someone to whom you are not married can present a number of challenges, especially if you break up. To protect yourself and your child, secure a paternity test or acknowledgment of paternity. Doing so will allow a parent to seek custody and visitation while also holding the other former partner responsible for child support. Good to discuss this with a family law attorney.

Decision-making authority and benefits

If one person in the unmarried relationship becomes ill, the other person may not have the legal authority to make decisions relating to the ill partner's care. Or unfortunately, if the partner dies the other partner may not be entitled to receive benefits as married couples can. To expect that your partner will be able to make financial and/or health-related decisions if you are not able, and to ensure your property is distributed to your partner in the event of your death, it is necessary to complete the very specific estate planning documents that address these issues.

Protecting yourself with legal support

If you are in a committed relationship but unmarried, having a family law attorney, or in certain circumstances an estate-planning attorney, to guide you makes perfect sense.

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