With the decline in marriage rates, and subsequently divorce rates, related to economic factors, more couples are cohabiting as they delay marriage.
But since many states do not recognize “common law marriage,” cohabiting partners are left with little protection in the event of a breakup, Cordell & Cordell co-founder Joseph Cordell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
As Cordell explains, the law treats ex-lovers like business partners dissolving their company: the only thing that matters is what’s on paper.
So if the girlfriend solely owns the house, it does not matter if the boyfriend helped pay the mortgage if there wasn’t a contract listing him as joint owner. He would have no claim to any equity since oral agreements aren’t enforceable in real estate.
Cordell said cohabiting partners could protect themselves through separate contracts, sometimes called “cohabitation agreements.” But this type of asset protection is complicated and requires a family law attorney’s assistance.
Read the full St. Louis Post-Dispatch article on asset protection.