Many Illinois couples live together without ever tying the knot, but it is important to understand that there are legal protections that only come with marriage. When a couple decides to go their separate ways, one party may be surprised that despite a long union with their partner, they may have little or no legal rights to assets obtained while cohabiting.
Many assume that cohabitation entitles them to half or an equitable division of the property obtained during the relationship, or even alimony for the lower earning partner. However, if there is no marriage, Illinois laws regarding the division of marital property and spousal maintenance do not apply.
This is often seen in cases in which one partner has title to the home and the other is left with nothing when they break up despite the co-mingling of funds to pay for the mortgage. It might also involve the purchase of a vehicle in one persons name who gets to keep it after the relationship dissolves even if they both were paying on the loan.
The confusion surrounding co-habitation rights often centers on the fact that some states have common law marriages where those who live together as a “seemingly- married” couple may be entitled to half of the property obtained during the relationship. However, Illinois is an equitable division state and even if couples live together for many years, the partners have no legal right to demand fair distribution of the household property.
Even unmarried couples who draw up contracts such as a prenuptial agreement or enter into legally created domestic partnerships may find that these contracts are ruled invalid. Now that marriage extends to same-sex couples, they too must marry to enjoy legal rights to marital property and more.
When You Have Questions About Protecting Assets While Cohabiting
Contact Experienced Illinois Family Law Attorney for Answers
Not everyone is ready to get married before they live together – it is a personal choice. However, it is important to discuss your legal options with an experienced Illinois family law attorney in order to preserve your rights to property before taking the leap or shortly thereafter. If you have questions regarding cohabitation as it relates to Illinois property rights or other family law issues, schedule your strategy session with lawyer Ronald L. Bell by calling us at 847-495-6000 or fill out our online contact form.