The Legal Risks of Living Together While Unmarried
It's important to be educated about the legal consequences of living together.
After a certain period of time with your significant other you might feel that moving in together is the next best step in your relationship. While moving in together is a time of excitement, oftentimes, couples oftentimes are not aware of the risks of living as if you’re married but not actually being legally married. One of the most common issues couples face is the difficulty they face when they separate. When a married couple chooses to buy a house, car, or other assets, in California those assets are considered community property, and both parties automatically earn equal rights to the assets in the event of a divorce. The same goes for any debt acquired when you’re married. In other words, you automatically split the good and the bad equally. For an unmarried couple looking to end their living arrangement, this is not the case. Nothing is determined easily or automatically, including issues of custody of your children. Since unmarried cohabitants do not enjoy the same rights and benefits as married couples, it is important to note that if something were to happen to your significant other, you might not be entitled to receive property, insurance benefits, death benefit’s, social security, or other assets from your partner’s estate. It does not make a difference how many years you have been together. This applies to all unmarried couples no matter their age. There are no inheritance rights unless they are in an estate plan. Another issue that long plagued the LGBTQ community before the legalization of gay marriage relates to hospital care and end of life decisions. If an unmarried couple shares a life together, and one of them is hospitalized, the unmarried partner is not considered next of kin and could face problems having access to medical information from the hospital and not being involved in health-related decision making without having legal documents in place, such as an Advanced Health Care Directive. Another factor to consider for unmarried couples is Federal income taxes. If you are not married, there are many tax benefits not available to couples who are just living together. Married couples have additional tax benefits they can claim, including head of household, a higher standard deduction, and different tax brackets for married couples compared to individual tax filers. While there are risks to consider when living together unmarried, there are also steps to take to make the process a little smoother, such as creating a cohabitation contract. This can help you establish financial and property agreements should anything not work out in the end. Of course, if you are hesitant to get married because don’t want all the legal consequences of being married, you may benefit from a consultation with an experienced family law lawyer that can answer your questions. You may want to learn more about Premarital Agreements and other options.
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