‘Divorce’ for unmarried cohabitating couples

There are many reasons why individual couples opt to cohabitate but not to marry. One of the reasons why some couples choose to avoid making their unions legally “official” is that they believe that in the event of a breakup, they will be spared the pain and expense associated with the divorce process. Certainly, if a couple has only been cohabitating for a few weeks or months, this may be true.

However, if a couple truly begins to blend their lives in significant ways, they may be compelled to face many of the same legal hurdles that married couples do when they opt to divorce. If an unmarried couple’s finances, property and even children are shared, the courts may be called upon to help that couple fairly divide the elements of life that the unmarried couple has blended over months and years.

For example, even if couples are unmarried, a split may provoke an order for so-called “palimony” which functions much in the same ways that alimony and spousal support do. Similarly, unmarried couples may need to go through a litigated, negotiated or mediated process in order to divide shared property and to address child-related matters like child custody, parental placement time, parenting agreements and child support.

If you are in a serious unmarried relationship and you have questions about either how to protect yourself in the event of a breakup or how to navigate a breakup from a legal standpoint, please do not hesitate to speak with an experienced family law attorney in your state.


: The Huffington Post, “Property and Palimony Law for Unmarried Cohabitating Partners,” Brad Reid, May 12, 2015

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