Property division when unmarried couples split

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

It is not unusual for New Jersey couples to live together for some time. Some choose to marry later, but others might continue to cohabitate. Like married couples, they accumulate assets during this time, and they might even have children together. However, what happens when the relationship ends? How does the law treat property division for unmarried couples?

Cohabitating couples do not receive the same protection as married couples in divorce. The best way to avoid costly legal battles to protect each party’s property rights is to enter into an agreement at the start of the cohabitation arrangements. Such an agreement can include the unique needs of each partner in the event of the death of one or the end of the relationship, and it is best to draft one before problems arise.

A cohabitation agreement can specify ownership of assets brought into the relationship as well as those that are acquired during the time the couple lived together. It can also indicate how income, expenses and debts will be handled during cohabitation and upon separation. This can include insurance policies, credit cards and bank accounts. The agreement can also show how disputes will be resolved.

The issues that will likely be most challenging when it comes to property division will probably be those that involve real estate, support and child-related issues. An experienced divorce attorney can provide essential support and guidance with all aspects when a cohabitation relationship comes to an end. A New Jersey lawyer can also help couples to establish cohabitation agreements that might prevent contention when partners decide to go their separate ways.

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