Cohabitation in California: Legal Differences Between Married and Unmarried Couples

family law legal adviceMany states have implemented common law marriage, which means that an unmarried couple who cohabitates may be automatically considered a formal marriage under certain circumstances. However, California is not one of those states, and unmarried couples who cohabitate don’t always have the same rights that a married couple might. 

Today, we’re taking a closer look at these key differences between married couples and those in domestic partnerships in contrast to unmarried couples who have not formally or legally established a union. 

Finances Between an Unmarried Couple

For all intents and purposes, the finances of each individual are considered entirely separate by the state of CA. That means no joint property unless via voluntary decision to do so. If the couple does decide to share any income or property, things are typically split 50/50 in the case of a break up. 

In addition, alimony or spousal support are not valid options as there was never an official or formal marriage. Child support is a separate matter entirely and parents are still obligated to provide for their children whether they are together or not. 

Property Between Couples Who Haven’t Tied the Knot

Just like with finances, all property including real estate is considered separate property. Ownership is based on the legal documentation, so whoever has their name on the property gets it all. In cases where the other person contributed to the ownership via payments, he/she will have to pursue getting what is theirs via available legal means. 

Child Custody/Visitation and Support

When parents split, there’s still the need to determine custody and visitation arrangements, and these proceedings don’t vary significantly whether a couple is married or not married. In addition, the courts can implement child support payments as needed. 

One key difference between married and unmarried couples in this space is that, if a couple is not married, the court may require that paternity is established before any child support payments are established. This can usually be done via an agreement or a test.

Talk to a Family Law Attorney Today

We hope this summary provides a clearer picture of how different things can be for married and unmarried couples in CA, legally speaking. To get guidance about your specific situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified legal professional.

Reach us at R & S Law Group, LLP today by calling our office at (949) 825-5245.