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Cohabitation before marriage is more common than ever these days. It is super common for couples in a serious relationship to move in together before marriage. In many cases, these couples rent, but an increasing number of couples are buying a home together before they get married. However, this can lead to some legal and financial complications.
It’s tough to say whether or not someone should or shouldn’t buy a property together before they are married. Everyone’s situation is different and every couple has a different dynamic. Some couples may be able to make this purchase together with zero problems, and others may be on the verge of breaking up and may believe a big joint purchase will stabilize them to keep them together. However, there are some precautions that every couple needs to take before making a joint purchase if that’s what they decide to do.
Some Precautions to Take Before Buying a House or Condo with Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend
First, if it is at all possible, make sure that both of your names are on any ownership and financing documents. This ensures that you both have legal control over the asset. It also prevents one party from potentially abandoning the relationship without having to suffer any of the financial consequences of paying for an asset. The worst-case scenario in this situation would be if one party were to abandon the relationship and not have their name on the property’s ownership. In that situation, it would be possible for them to stick the financial obligation on the other party, causing a huge and unmanageable expense.
Of course, the opposite could happen as well. It would also be possible for the legal owner of the property to evict their partner, causing that individual to become homeless and potentially lose possessions. Clearly, both these situations could leave one person in a disastrous situation, which is why having both parties in legal control is the best move to take.
Second, make sure that you are familiar with how the law treats unmarried couples before making a purchase. All fifty states have fifty different laws, and this is why it is so important to understand how your state would treat your relationship both before and after any marriage may occur. Remember, all states have different procedures for a variety of potential relationship circumstances, including common law marriage or no-fault divorce. Ensuring that you have an adequate understanding of these issues can prevent heartache and financial pain for both of you.
What rights do unmarried couples have in New York?
Generally, unmarried cohabitants do not enjoy the same rights as married individuals, particularly with respect to property acquired during a relationship. Marital property laws and other family laws related to marriage do not apply to unmarried couples, even in long-term relationships. The characterization of property acquired by unmarried cohabitants is less clear than that of married couples whose ownership of property is governed by marital and community property laws. Some property acquired by unmarried couples may be owned jointly, but it may be difficult to divide such property when the relationship ends. There is no obligation of financial support attached to a couple who cohabits, absent an agreement to the contrary. If you are financially dependent on a romantic partner and the relationship ends, the effects of the breakup can be much harsher.
Living together, or cohabitation, in a non-marital relationship does not automatically entitle either party to acquire any rights in the property of the other party acquired during the period of cohabitation. However, adults who voluntarily live together and engage in sexual relations may enter into a contract to establish the respective rights and duties of the parties with respect to their earnings and the property acquired from their earnings during the nonmarital relationship. They may also agree to pool only part of their earnings and property, form a partnership or joint venture or joint enterprise, or hold property as joint tenants or tenants in common, or agree to any other arrangement.
Other legal issues that may affect cohabiting couples include estate planning and medical care. Generally, someone who cohabits with another is not considered an heir under the law or has the same rights to make medical care decisions in the same manner as a spouse. Therefore, unmarried cohabitants may consider estate planning and power of attorneys in addition to having a non marital agreement.