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Unmarried couples and their legal rights

Sometimes marriage is not right for everyone. Whether it is because of someone's personal beliefs or preferences, or someone simply does not want to make a life-long commitment. The ending of a non-marital relationship is certainly a lot easier to walk away from; however, it offers you little protection in the process.

If you are not married, then the ownership of property is determined based on whose name the property is in. It does not matter if you contributed in any way to the acquisition of the property in question. If both parties' names are listed, then both are co-owners, as is the case with a joint bank account or real estate.

You can set up an agreement with your partner, similar to a prenuptial agreement, in the event the relationship terminates. However, such an agreement cannot trump federal law. For example, you would still not be able to file joint taxes or collect each other's Social Security benefits in the event of the other's death.

Debts function the same as property in non-marital relationships. Unless both parties are listed on the contract, only the party whose name the contract is in will be responsible for the debt.

From a debt standpoint, the unmarried couple has an advantage over married couples. This is the case because in most states, both married parties are responsible for debts incurred while married and can have their wages garnished as a result. The same does not hold true for unmarried couples.

A non-married person has no inheritance rights in the event his or her partner dies, unless a will states otherwise. In an intestate case, the proceeds of the probate estate would go to the living family members in succession order. If there are no living descendants, then the estate would go to the state.

If you are not married and have children with your partner, a man would have to establish paternity. Paternity is presumed in marital cases. The mother also can sign a document that attests to her soon-to-be ex-partner being the father.

If you or someone you know is in a non-marital relationship and wants to ensure his or her rights are protected, the advice and counsel of an experienced New York family law attorney may be prove informative.

Source: LeagleBeagle.com, "Legal rights of unmarried couples," Beverly Bird, accessed Jan. 27, 2017

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