Breakups can quickly turn into courtroom battles for cohabitating couples

According to recent statistics gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of cohabitating couples – meaning couples who live together but who are not married – has more than doubled over the last 14 years from 2.8 million to 7.5 million.

Unfortunately, with this increase in cohabitation comes the potential for messy separations.

What makes these separations so potentially messy is that cohabitating couples are frequently unable to avail themselves of the protections/certainty offered by state divorce laws and must turn to the courts to work things out.

“There are details that we are struggling to work out because we have no legal documents, so there are no real legal answers. We’re just having to struggle through and decide who is responsible for what,” said Thomas Sprick, a St. Louis man who just ended his relationship of several years with his partner.

Fortunately, there are steps that cohabitating couples can take to protect themselves from these potentially messy breakups.

Many legal experts recommend that couples consider executing a cohabitation agreement. This legally binding document functions much like a prenuptial agreement, and will definitively decide who receives what property, who pays for what expenses and what happens to property brought into the relationship.

In addition, some states – including Texas – recognize common law marriage, meaning even though a couple was not legally married (i.e., not marriage license was issued) the law still views them as such. Accordingly, they are extended the protection of state divorce laws.

Here in Texas, a couple is generally considered to be legally married if three conditions are satisfied:

  • The couple has lived together in Texas
  • The couple has held themselves out to others as being husband and wife
  • The couple has demonstrated an intent to be married

(Please note, these conditions may be difficult to satisfy. If you have questions, consider seeking legal counsel)

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

To learn more about dissolution of marriage or life after divorce, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Related Resources:

For live-in lovers, breaking up can be worse than a divorce (St. Louis Today)

What to Expect in Texas Family Law Court (Texas Bar Association)