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Breaking up: How to split your assets when unmarried

When you're unmarried and decide to split up from your partner, there are still decisions to make about the division of your assets. How do you decide who gets what? Are you protected by law? Here are some helpful things to consider about dividing your assets as a woman prepared to move out on your own.

1. Understand that what is yours is still yours: What's in your name?

Unlike with a marriage, cohabitating doesn't mean your assets become your partner's. In fact, unless the assets are purchased mutually with the intention of being shared, any assets in your name remain in your name. Keep in mind that if you claim the item is yours but your partner has proof that it is his as well, then he could take his claim to court.

2. Housing purchase matters: What's on the mortgage?

When you are not married and you purchase property together, you need to know how you want to share that property. Sometimes the property is purchased by an individual and is in this person's name alone. In that case, the other partner may not have a claim to the property.

However, if the property was purchased for you together, it may actually have both of your names on the mortgage or you may have created a joint tenancy or be tenants-in-common. In those cases, you have proof that the property was to be shared, so you could make a claim for the property or the value of your portion of the property in court. Homes purchased jointly are typically split 50/50 unless otherwise indicated.

3. Pets: An asset to consider?

Pets are assets, although they're living things. Usually, one person decides to keep the pet. However, if this has turned into a major argument, it may be a good idea to head to mediation. During mediation, a third party listens to each person's claims and takes into account evidence and information provided by either side. The mediator helps guide you toward a resolution.

For example, if you and your partner live near each other, then you may share custody of your pet. Or, if you work 40 hours a week while your partner works only 25, it might work out better to allow your partner to care for your pet. Each situation is different, so consider mediation if you can't make a decision on your own.

If you have concerns about leaving your partner, your attorney can help. The right advice now can save you time and money later.

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