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How is Property Divided When Unmarried Couples Separate?

Under Florida Statutes 798.01 and 798.02, cohabitation was illegal in the state of Florida, and any couple caught violating either of those provisions was found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor. Today however, more and more couples are choosing to cohabitate without getting married. Whether this is because they do not believe in the institution of marriage, want to live together before tying the knot, or cannot legally get married in the State of Florida, the state had to change its laws. Just this year, on April 6, 2016, Gov. Rick Scott signed into legislature SB 498, the bill that would repeal outdated laws prohibiting cohabitation.

Now that cohabitation is legal in Florida, cohabiting couples should know their legal rights in the event that they separate and one or both partners chooses to move out of the shared home.

Considerations Before Buying Property Together

Before you and your partner buy a home together, or before you invest in any substantial piece of property, consider whether you want to have joint tenancy or be tenants-in-common.

  • Joint Tenants. Joint tenants own a piece of property equally. No matter how much of their own money each partner invests, ownership rights are divided 50/50. Should a joint tenant owner die, their share of the property will go to the other tenant, granting the surviving partner 100 percent ownership.
  • Tenants-in-Common. If two partners decide to own property as tenants-in-common, the percentage of ownership will be equivalent to how much of his or her own money each partner invests into the property. For instance, if one partner contributes to 25 percent of the purchase price, they will own 25 percent share. Likewise, the other partner – who likely contributed the remaining 75 percent – will own 75 percent share. Unlike joint tenancy, if one partner should die before the relationship ends, the surviving partner will not have any rights to the remaining share of the property; instead, that share of the property will be included in the deceased’s estate.

Common Issues that Arise with Property During a Separation

Fortunately, when a couple buys a home or property together – whether as joint tenants or tenants-in-common – the division of the home or property is straightforward—i.e. 50/50 or 25/75. However, oftentimes a couple will move into a home that one partner already owns in their name. Both partners may end up contributing to the mortgage and maintenance, however, in which case, property issues will arise.

Another common issue arises when one partner puts a piece of property in their name, but both partners contribute to the purchase, the monthly payments, and the required maintenance.

In each of these instances, the property is likely to remain the person’s property whose name is on the deed unless the other partner can prove that the property was intended to be shared property. This can be very difficult to do – especially in a separation when neither party is willing to compromise – unless there is something in writing or another form of proof indicating that each party contributed equally to the purchase price, mortgage payments, and ongoing maintenance.

Consult a Boca Raton Divorce Attorney

At the Law Offices of Schwartz | White, our divorce attorneys assist both married couples and domestic partners with settlement negotiations. If you have been cohabitating with someone for a significant period of time, and if you accrued property and an ample amount of assets together, each of you are entitled to your fair share of the assets. To learn more about how our Boca Raton divorce lawyers can help you in your separation, contact our law firm at 561-391-9943 or online to schedule a consultation today.




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