A Toledo Divorce Attorney Explains Ending a Cohabitation Arrangement

July 1, 2015

You’ve probably all repeated the lyrics of that old kid song, “First comes love, then comes marriage; then comes ‘Becky’ with a baby carriage.” That children’s rhyme was very popular 50 years ago, frequently being chanted through rounds of double-dutch jump rope and hand-slapping games. But, times have changed and we’ve moved into a new century. The family dynamic has dramatically changed, and the traditional family structure often looks very different today than it did several generations ago.

Relationship Problems

Today, many couples choose not to get married while building their families and establishing a life together. Even though the legal relationship may look different from those of married couples, a break-up is still just as difficult. Just like the dissolution of marriage that some couples opt for, if unmarried couples can agrees amicably on the details of the split, the process can go rather smoothly. But, if you can’t agree, then the separation can be a little trickier. The problem lies in the fact that the laws that apply to married couples going through divorce DON’T apply to unmarried couples unless the relationship qualifies as a common law marriage.

Ohio’s Stance on Common Law Marriage

Although many states have specific laws regarding common law marriage, Ohio’s stance is somewhat interesting. Presently, a relationship in Ohio can only be considered a valid common law marriage if it was entered into before October 10, 1991. On October 10, 1991, Ohio abolished common law marriages. This means that any previous relationship is essentially “grandfathered in” as a common law marriage, but no new arrangements will be considered.

If you have a valid common law marriage and would like Ohio’s divorce laws to apply to you, you and your partner must have been living with a reputation like a married couple.

Splitting Up When You’re Not Married

If you don’t have a common law marriage, splitting up can be a little more difficult. Don’t expect alimony (aka Spousal Support) to be an automatic guarantee, and your property rights are only guaranteed if you have a cohabitation agreement. If you establish this agreement when your relationship is in good standing, you can ensure that any property acquired before the relationship is divided up fairly. This contractual agreement will protect both of your interests in the event the relationship ends. Without a cohabitation agreement, dividing up your assets and debts can become a messy ordeal.

To make sure that your financial dealings are handled smoothly, that your property rights are protected, and any child custody arrangements are handled properly, it’s wise to contact a divorce and/or family law attorney for legal counsel. In a situation that often comes down to he said/she said claims, having an attorney to walk you through the process of ending your relationship can eliminate many of the confusing headaches that may result otherwise. You want the termination of your relationship to go as smoothly as possible so you can move on with your life and hiring the right attorney can help with that.

To get answers to your questions concerning cohabitation and ending a relationship if you weren’t married, please contact Michael E. Bryant at 419-243-3922 today. He has the experience and understanding you need to navigate the laws surrounding cohabitation arrangements and breakups. You can have peace-of-mind trusting that he has your best interest at heart and wants to fight to get you a fair outcome after your separation.