A Quick Guide To Legal Rights For Unmarried Couples
If you are in a long-term relationship, it’s important to know what your rights are with regards to your partner. Unmarried couples, even if they share a home and have children, do not have all the same rights as a married couple does under California law.
A wide variety of issues, such as tax benefits, joint property, debt, and alimony, are resolved very differently for unmarried couples versus married couples who get divorced.
To help you understand the differences, here is an explanation of how common issues are resolved for unmarried couples.
For married couples, joint property (also known as community property) is typically anything a couple purchases during their marriage. This is especially true if shared funds were used to make the purchases. During a divorce, all community property is divided equally between both parties, regardless of who made the actual purchase.
Unmarried couples, however, are not subject to community property laws in California. This means if you and your partner break up, whoever made the actual purchase will likely be considered the owner in any legal dispute.
You cannot be held liable for any debts your partner accrues individually during your relationship. If your partner makes a bunch of expensive purchases on his or her credit card–even if they’re gifts for you–that debt will be their sole responsibility, even if your relationship ends.
On the other hand, debts that are jointly contracted will continue to be a liability for both parties until the debt is settled. This means any credit cards, loans, or mortgages that are in both parties’ names cannot be transferred to one individual in the event the relationship ends.
Spousal Support (Alimony)
As the name implies, spousal support is not available to unmarried couples who end their relationship.
Only married couples that go through the divorce process are entitled to ask for financial support from their former partners.
Child Custody & Support
Childcare, custody, and support are one of the few issues that are handled the same for both married and unmarried couples. Parents have a legal obligation to care for their children regardless of their marital status.
If you and your partner have a child, and your relationship ends, you will both be held accountable for your child’s well being. Just because you and your child’s other parent were never married does not confer any right to walk away from your responsibilities as a parent under California law.
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