You and your partner have lived together for the last decade. You never got married. Your partner brought it up a few times, but you didn’t want to go forward with it. Your own parents got divorced, after all. You saw how the marriage ended. It soured you on the idea and, though you loved your partner, you just did not want to put yourself in that position.
The issue is that now your relationship is ending. You’ve decided to break up. But this isn’t like a college breakup. You’re adults with full-time jobs. You’ve spent 10 years together buying assets and investing in a future. You want to make sure you get back what you legally own. Do you have any rights?
You certainly have a right to your personal property, just as you would if you bought it on your own. Maybe you purchased the TV for your apartment. Maybe you bought the car that the two of you share. Agreeing to share with someone you’re in a romantic relationship with is fine. It doesn’t mean they own your assets.
That said, remember that this is much different than it is for a married couple. The law sees you as individuals and nothing more. Certainly, you know that you had a relationship. You felt like a couple. But the law doesn’t recognize boyfriends and girlfriends as official couples. You’re just two people with your own assets who live together.
What does this mean? Well, with a married couple, (almost) everything that they bought during the marriage is known as a marital asset. It’s not personal property, but something legally owned by both people. That’s why the property division process is so important. They have to split that ownership up in accordance with state laws.
Those laws do not apply to you if you never got married. Take the car, for instance. Your partner may think of it as “their car,” especially if you bought one vehicle for each of you. A married person may have a claim. A live-in partner does not. That’s still your car, even though you let them use it.
A complex process
As you can imagine, things can get complicated in a hurry. What if you both put your money into the same bank account? Whose money is that? What if you invested together? Who technically paid for things like utilities and taxes? What if you made a major purchase together, like a home?
There are a lot of questions to ask, and it may feel harder to split up, from this perspective, than if you had gotten married. Make sure you are well aware of all of your legal rights.