Marcus and Jenelle were head over heels in love with each other. They eventually decided to take their relationship to the next level and move in together. Like many couples, they talked a lot about getting married, but things kept coming up, like finances and a new job situation for Jenelle.
Next thing you know, years had gone by but no marriage had taken place. The couple had a child together and basically functioned like a married couple, but hadn't actually made it legal.
This situation went on until the day that Jenelle found out Marcus had cheated on her. Now, she wants out, but they are making joint payments on the house, not to mention they have a child. What rights do either of them have since they are living together but aren't married? How do you do a divorce on an unmarried couple?
Cohabitation is when two people are living together as a married couple but are not legally wed. In some states, cohabitation can actually be prosecuted as a violation of adultery laws. However, in Georgia, that is not the case.
According to state statute, in Georgia, cohabitation is defined as "dwelling together continuously and openly in a meretricious relationship with another person, regardless of the sex of the other person". Meretricious is a fancy-sounding legal term for "having sex". So, essentially, if you are living and sleeping together, you're cohabitating.
The short answer is not many. The law is definitely skewed towards married couples, so cohabitating couples are at a definite disadvantage. This is particularly true of property. It does not matter how long you have been living together; marital property laws do not apply if you are not married!
With a married couple, there are rules and regulations concerning the split of property in case of a divorce. You may indeed have a car or a house in both your names, but if you are not legally married, none of the rules that are on the books apply to your situation. The exception being if you signed an agreement before living together that addressed how the property would be split in case you decided to break up.
Financial arrangements can also be very tricky when it comes to dissolving a cohabitation situation. Neither party in a cohabitation situation has any financial obligation to the other in case the couple decides to part ways. The only exception to this would be if there was some kind of signed agreement in place. If you are financially dependent on someone you are living with, be prepared for a lot of pain if you split up.
If you are cohabitating with someone you love, there are so many issues that could have a negative impact on you if things go south. Have you given any consideration to how property or money would be split in case of a breakup? What about estate planning or healthcare power of attorney decisions?
With so many unknowns, it pays to ask for some help. An experienced, caring family law attorney, such as Mrs. Edidiong Aaron at Family Matters Law Group, can be an invaluable source of advice and can help you create legal documents to protect yourself moving forward.
We've helped clients all across the Atlanta metro area, so if you have questions about a cohabitation situation, don't hesitate to contact us via phone or our online contact form. We're ready to listen and help you evaluate your options to safeguard your family, your money, and your assets.