You and your partner decided not to get married, and it turns out that it was a good idea. After 10 years of life spent together, you’ve decided to go your own ways and need to move on with your lives.
Now, you’re in a dilemma, because almost all your property is shared. You’re not married, though, so you’re not held to the same distribution laws as those who are. How do you decide who receives what?
1. Start with what you know
To begin dividing assets, start with what you can agree on. Things like clothing, separate bedroom furniture sets, private bank accounts and private debts remain your own. Anything in your own name that you know is not shared between you is a good place to begin with your property division agreement.
2. Talk about the things you can agree on
Next, think about what you’re willing to give up or what you can agree on splitting. For instance, if you own the home together, then you know that you have to divide the asset between you by selling it, splitting equity or otherwise managing the asset. Sit down and decide on a fair division.
For instance, if you always paid the mortgage but your partner paid for home repairs and utilities, it may be fair to sell the home and split the profits in an even, or nearly even, way. On the other hand, if it’s your property from before you dated, then you may want to give the other person only a portion of the home’s value that is equivalent to what they’ve put into it.
3. Talk about what you can’t agree on
Finally, if there are assets you can’t agree on, then it’s time to sit down together, with your attorneys, with mediators or arbitrators, and work out a solution. Build a case for why you believe you’re entitled to those assets, and discuss it with the other party. In cases where you can’t agree, it’s important to try to take anger or frustration out of the equation. Do your best to be relaxed and respectful while talking. Both people are likely to have different opinions, and getting angry over them only slows down the discussions that can lead to a resolution.
These are three things to think about when you’re separating after a long-term relationship. You’re not protected like a married couple, so you will need to do your best to divide your assets on your own.