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Unmarried Couples & Real Property Division

With many couples living together outside of marriage, property issues become more and more complex. Understanding how shared property would be divided if the relationship ends is extremely important. In the eyes of the law, these couples are treated as separate individuals. When two unmarried individuals share ownership of real property, a suit to partition the property must be filed in the case that the individuals wish to separate. Real property is generally thought to consist of land and the things, such as buildings and structures that are attached to this land.

Establishing Ownership of Real Property

When buying real property, the couple should decide whether ownership will occur as joint tenants or as tenants-in-common. Ownership will be broken down into separate shares that each individual will own in the case of division.

  • Joint Tenants establish equal ownership of property. Equal interest in the property is held by both parties.
  • Tenants-In-Common means that shares of the property have been established. For example, if 75% of the property is paid for by one party, their share in the property is greater.

When two or more individuals have a right to possession of the property, partitioning of real property can occur. When a property is partitioned, fair market value of the property will be assessed. If there is no way to fairly partition the property, the court must order a sale of the property and the net proceeds will be divided appropriately. If any part of the property lies outside the county court's jurisdiction, the court may not be able to force a sale or title change.

How Property Division Works for Unmarried Couples

It is generally noted that each individual is responsible for their obligations and expenses of the real property. In the event of a partition, one party that may be paying more than their share of expenses is entitled to a portion of the sale of the other person's share of property. The shares of property are determined through percentage of ownership. For married couples, real property is generally considered marital property and is divided as such. For unmarried partners, it can be divided disproportionally depending on ownership agreements.

After determining percentage of ownership, reimbursable household expenses are established. A reimbursable household expense is used to maintain the property, such as mortgage, maintenance, and repairs. Next, an analysis of what expenses paid should be reimbursed will occur. For unmarried couples, once joint ownership was established, the owner that paid for more of their liable expenses is entitled to reimbursement for these expenses. This means that if one party solely paid the mortgage, their entitlement to shares will increase because of the increased investment in household expenses.

Any property shared by the couple, unless other arrangements have been legally made, will be divided in this manner. If you were in an unmarried partnership where property division is at stake, having an attorney on your side can help ensure that real property is divided fairly. Call today for a free initial consultation!