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Is There A “Divorce” When You Were Never Married?

The Micklin Law Group-Is There A “Divorce” When You Were Never Married?

We all know that a divorce is the way to end a marriage, whether you’ve been married for months or years. But what if you have been together with your partner for a while and have never tied the knot? What happens when you break up, and how can you negotiate common concerns that arise during the break up of a long-term relationship?

If you have been with the same partner for a while, you may have begun to share your life with them. For some couples, this means living together, pooling finances, or having a child. Marriage remains popular in New Jersey because all of these decisions present a risk if the relationship ends, but being married offers some protection. When you do decide to split up, there are divorce laws and guidelines that attempt to keep things equitable. Conversely, unmarried couples have fewer guidelines and laws to follow when they split up, so it can be difficult to know how to move forward. 

Here are a few of the possible components to a long-term relationship that an unmarried couple should consider when splitting up.

Assets and Debts

In an unmarried couple, each party is presumed to have their own separate assets and debts. This works nicely for a couple who has lived separately or does not have a lot of possessions, but things get complicated for couples who are splitting after pooling their resources. If you rent a home together, for example, you may have spent money furnishing it and and decorating it. The law generally assumes that the partner who bought the piece of furniture is its owner, but what if you  both contributed financially? Things aren’t as clear. While many couples are able to peacefully split up the property, those who can’t agree may be forced to head to court.

Property that is legally owned by both parties, such as a home or car where both names are on the deed, is presumed to belong 50/50 to each party. When one partner relies on the car to get to work every day and their significant other works from home, you can imagine what a hardship it places on the first individual when the couple breaks up and they may not have access to that vehicle. But if you find yourself in this situation and your ex is adamant about wanting their 50% of the car’s value, you may have to buy them out or sell the car to split the profit.

Parenting Time

Unmarried couples who are breaking up have the right to create their own parenting plan without an official custody order. You aren’t required to register or file your parenting time arrangement with the court. However, our New Jersey divorce lawyers for men and fathers have seen that in many cases, an unmarried couple will eventually have custody issues that land them in court – for example, if the breakup was initially pleasant but the co-parenting relationship becomes toxic over time. If you’d like to make your custody arrangement official from the start, you may wish to see a New Jersey divorce attorney who handles custody cases about creating a fair custody agreement and filing it with the court.

Do New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Recommend Marriage?

Since breaking up when you are unmarried can present challenges, do our New Jersey 

divorce + family law attorneys for men in New Jersey recommend that you get married? There’s no one size fits all answer. If you and your partner are interested in getting married, don’t assume a possible divorce will be more painful than an unmarried breakup. Both present challenges, but they shouldn’t persuade you not to get married if that’s what you really desire. The opposite is also true: if you don’t want to get married, don’t do it just because you think it will make future legal matters easier. Whether you’re married or not, you can work with an attorney to create legally binding documents that should make things easier if your relationship doesn’t last. 

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