Unmarried couples need to protect assets and parental rights

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Unmarried Couples on Friday, November 2, 2012.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, more and more couples are choosing to live together and have children without first getting married. Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with these decisions. However, those unmarried parents and couples should think about a few things ahead of time in order to protect future finances and parental rights.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of unmarried couples rose by 74 percent between the years of 2000 and 2009. In fact, now there are at least 6.7 million couples who are together, yet not legally married.

Unlike married couples, when unmarried couples break up, there are not legal rights in terms of property division. Rather, couples need to be proactive and talk about finances and how they would like assets and debts to be divided beforehand — when the relationship is still good. In some situations, especially if buying a home together is involved, this could mean writing up contracts and meeting with attorneys to make sure assets are protected and one partner is not left in a bad financial spot in the case of a split.

It’s also advisable to keep assets separate during a relationship. Even though both people are no doubt committed to each other, consolidating student loans and credit cards, as well as having joint bank accounts and cars, can only further complicate the situation if the relationship were to not work out.

In terms of parental rights, when an unmarried couple has children, the father needs to make sure to act right away to ensure his rights as a father are protected. This means the father should immediately file for a paternity action immediately. Contrary to popular belief, just being on the birth certificate does not ensure rights. Rather, a paternity action that says who the father is can go a long way if there was ever a need to fight for custody or visitation.

Source: Fox Business, “Financial Rules for Unmarried Couples Living Together,” Andrea Murad, Oct. 29, 2012

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