Rights of Unmarried Partners to Property Ownership During a Separation
Florida has many laws governing how married spouses should settle various issues in a divorce, including the division of property and assets. However, many couples decide not to get married for one reason or another, and what happens to their property division when they decide to separate? Unfortunately, Florida does not have laws giving unmarried couples the right to property from the relationship, so it is important for such couples to take other steps to protect their interests.
What Happens to Property?
Florida law distinguishes separate property from marital property in a divorce, though there can only be rights to marital property if you are married. Unmarried couples are not considered to have shared property unless both partners are listed as owners. Some complicated scenarios that can happen when unmarried couples separate include:
- You move into your partner’s home, but you never add your name to the deed. Even though you helped to make mortgage payments each month for years, you will not have the automatic right to equity in the house upon a separation. Your partner will likely get to keep the home and all the equity for themselves.
- Your partner worked and supported the household while you stayed home to care for the household. If you separate, you will have no right to any of their income, retirement accounts, individual financial accounts, or business interests.
Separating when you are not married can be devastating to your financial situation, especially if you were together for many years and rely on one another for financial purposes.
Solutions for Unmarried Partners
Because there is so much you could possibly lose if you separate without being married, it is wise to take steps to protect your rights if you are choosing not to marry. One common option is to draft and sign a cohabitation agreement. This is a legally-binding contract that will oversee how property will be divided if you separate.
While signing a contract might not seem romantic, it is important to consider this step to protect your interests in your home, cars, shared income, financial accounts, personal property, and much more. It is also critical to have an experienced attorney draft this contract to ensure it covers all the necessary issues that might arise regarding property division.
Florida has few property-related protections for unmarried couples and, in fact, cohabitation by unmarried partners was even against the law in Florida until 2016 (though not enforced). It is important for you to consider your rights and interests in the event of a breakup and seek the legal assistance you need.
Discuss Your Options with a Brandon Family Law Attorney Right Away
At the law firm of Carman & Bevington, our Florida family lawyers help all types of clients – both married and unmarried. Contact us directly if you need help with any divorce or separation-related matters in the Brandon area, including property division, child custody, spousal support, and more.