Are there legal protections for couples who live together in California? The patterns of relationships in the past 20 years has substantially changed from the traditional rules of the past. The days of attending school, getting a job, getting married, buying a home, starting a family and working to retirement have substantially changed.
Many couples today prefer to live together and put off buying a home until they are a bit older. The Pew Research center recently released a study which shows marriage rates are dropping over the past twenty years. It noted a greater percentage of adults are cohabitating and raising children outside of marriage. The study noted almost 25% of adults aged 25 to 34 have never married and are living as a romantic couple.”
What are the legal protections for couples who live together or have children outside of marriage? Let’s consider personal property. When you get married the property you already own is considered “separate” property. When you marry any property or debt you acquire during the marriage is considered part of the “community assets” and in a divorce community property is to be divided equally and fairly.
What happens if one of the parties passes away? How will joint property be divided if the couple splits? What are the legal rights of an unmarried father? While an unmarried couple is not subject to marital property rules they are able to establish similar rules through a contract, known as a “cohabitation agreement.”
The cohabitation agreement may be written, verbal, or implied. Texts, emails and other records and testimony may help to establish the facts. If there is not cohabitation agreement a judge may determine a de facto marriage existed between the parties and divide shared property according to “community property” laws.
Without a written agreement cases involving the legal protections for couples who live together become quite expensive and can drag on for years. The experienced Certified Family Law Specialists at Burke & Domercq can help to craft a cohabitation agreement to protect both parties in the event of a break up or one of the parties passing away.
A well-structured cohabitation agreement should address the property each hold separately and how joint bank accounts, assets, and debts will be managed. If there are children it is wise to discuss how the children will be cared for and who should be given custody in the event of death. Unmarried fathers should consider a paternity action to preserve and protect their legal rights and parenting time as the father of a child.
Finally, the cohabitation agreement should provide the process for resolving disputes over money, assets or children if the relationship is to come to an end.
If you have been living with one another for several years a court may consider you to be “married” in a legal sense, or at least apply the protection of California family law as if you were. Cases involving legal protections for couples who live together often have complex legal issues.