Unmarried Partners Who Live Together: What Happens to Your Stuff When You Break Up?
Cohabitation of unmarried couples is fast becoming the norm in Texas and around the country. What is not the norm, however, is that Texas is one of few states that acknowledge common law marriage. This is important to understand if you are concerned about what will happen to your property should you and your partner break up.
Cohabitation or Common Law Marriage?
To be seen as having a common law marriage in Texas, you must meet the following criteria:
- You and your partner agree that you are married.
- You and your partner live together as a married couple.
- You and your partner present yourselves as a married couple to other people.
Cohabiting partners simply live together without any intention of being married.
Common Law Marriage & Divorce in Texas
If you and your partner decide to split up and there is a question whether you are married or not on common law grounds, a Texas court may make that determination for you. If the court determines you have a common law marriage, you will then have to go through formal divorce proceedings. There is no such thing as common law divorce.
As you are likely well aware, divorce is expensive and time-consuming. And, in the absence of a binding agreement, you risk losing some of your assets and gaining added liabilities.
How to Best Protect Your Stuff When Living With Your Partner
If you are and your partner are living together and meet the criteria of a common law marriage above, you will want to consider creating a postnuptial agreement. A postnup is just like a prenup, but it is created after a couple gets married. With the postnup, you can specifically determine what happens to your joint and separate property and debts upon marriage. Without a postnuptial agreement in place, you are relying on Texas’s community property division laws to protect you.
If you are living together, but do not consider yourself married, it is a smart idea to create a cohabitation agreement. This agreement actively disavows any notion that you two are married, which means your personal assets and debts will not be comingled and divided along community property lines.
If you are unsure as to whether your live-in relationship amounts to a common law marriage, reach out an experienced Texas family lawyer.