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Contractually binding matters facing unmarried couples


Marriage used to be part of the natural progression of a relationship for a lot of couples. But, these days many couples are making the conscious decision to not get married, and instead they are co-habitating and still beginning families. The legal bonds of marriage clearly do not apply to unmarried couples, which leaves a lot of unanswered questions if an unmarried couple decides to end the relationship. Depending on where the couple resides, there may be a few different legal options.

When a marriage ends and the parties need to divide property and valuate assets, the courts take a lead role in ensuring that this is done in accordance with the applicable statutes. The courts, in essence, are in charge of some of the economic parts of a divorce, and this process can differ on a state-by-state basis. For instance, there are community property states and there are equitable distribution states. But, no matter where the states falls on this topic, the fact that there is a marriage provides the parties with certain contractual rights and responsibilities, because at the end of the day marriage is a legal contract.

Unmarried couples, however, do not have the same contractual privileges. Some states recognize common law marriage, which isn't a marriage but satisfies a statutory obligation as mandated by the state, thus affording the couple certain "married-like" benefits. Where there is no common law marriage, the unmarried couple has to take proactive steps to protect their individual interests because there is no legal requirement to do so. As such, couples who are not married have to create their own contracts with respect to things having to do with marital property.

Source: WBZ CBS Boston, "The Rules Of Living Together," Dee Lee, August 22, 2014

Source: WBZ CBS Boston, "The Rules Of Living Together," Dee Lee, August 22, 2014

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Law Offices of Harris & Literski
123 Brighton Lake Road, Suite 205
Brighton, MI 48116

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