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Separating without marriage? Asset division and the law

When you're not married but have been living with your partner for a long period of time, a separation can be as devastating as any divorce would be. You don't have the same protections as you would if you were married and getting a divorce. Here are a few things to remember.

First, if you purchased a home together in one person's name, it could be argued that the person on the mortgage owns the home exclusively. Now, if you have paid into the mortgage and can show that, then you can make a legal claim that the home is a shared asset. However, it's much easier if you protect yourself when you first purchase the property. Become a joint tenant or tenant-in-common, so you can show that both of you have a stake in the property.

Another thing to consider is what happens if a partner dies and you aren't married. Unless a will is present that states what happens to property, assets and other important items, the other partner may not receive anything or could be left fighting for his or her fair share of the estate. Normally, the estate will first go to spouses and children, then relatives. If you aren't married, you risk receiving nothing.

In a separation, the law will look at you as individuals, because you never got married. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourselves, like creating a contract or agreement stating what happens if you break up. Our website has more information on divorces and separations, so you can learn about the options open to you.

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