happy young couple
TROY HUELS

TROY HUELS

Unmarried and Happy: Know your Rights and How The Law Can Protect You

Picture a young couple who has been together for years. They dated their entire high school life. After many years together, they entered a more serious relationship in their college years. Eventually, they both graduated, ready to explore the world.

After following their passions in higher education, they followed separate career paths. But they still supported each other through the good and bad. One lived in a single-parent home; the other lived with her parents. The couple was still very much in love.

On the momentous occasion they both moved up the career ladder, they celebrated over a simple dinner date to celebrate the milestone. Over dinner, they both decided to take their relationship to another level. They both chose to live together. And happily, they did.

After one year of living together, they are still very much in love. They have seen each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and they got to know each other better, which led them even closer.

Why Not Get Married?

This is a typical question most people ask a lot of couples almost every day. They have the makings of a perfect marriage, disposable incomes, and they seem happy being together. Besides, many couples have been dating for a long time and have known each other as high school sweethearts.

There are many reasons why couples choose to live together over marriage. There is up to a 13% increase in couples living together every year, and about 40% of this number already have children.

Many unmarried couples view living together as a “trial period” before marriage. In contrast, others choose this route as they have gone through a tough divorce and do not want to experience that trauma again.

Additionally, many do not want to get married because of economic reasons. Some want to avoid the legal obligations for their partner’s expenses, including taxes, medical treatments, social security benefits, and the like.

Some also want to avoid inheritance issues. Such is the case if one of them or both have children from a divorced marriage. Another situation is one or both couples have their own assets. Furthermore, by staying unmarried, couples can remain qualified for other public benefits.

There are many other reasons why some couples stay unmarried. Some are simply personal preferences that only they understand.

But what if things go wrong? Aside from fundamental legal and personal rights, how can the law protect you in your living-together relationship?

Here are three legal steps to take so you can still get protection from the law:

couple reading a document

1. Create a Living-Together Contract

The living together contract will clearly indicate ownership of personal properties. This is also known as the property settlement agreement. By having this, you get to avoid court battles over properties in the event of a breakup. Here, both you and your partner agree to separate amicably and not fight over money and other personal assets.

2. Sign A Paternity Statement

In case you have children, this legal document preserves an unmarried father’s rights. Through the guidance of an experienced family attorney, both parents will sign and file an acknowledgment of paternity, establishing fatherhood. Either couple can file this with the court or an appropriate state agency during childbirth or even a few days after, thus preserving a father’s parental rights.

Once paternity rights are preserved and established, the father can pursue other rights. In case of a breakup, a father may seek child custody and child visitation. Additionally, you can also negotiate for a parenting plan.

This agreement might include stipulations over who has primary custody and the other parent’s visitation periods, as well as who will decide for their children’s education, religion, and health care. Usually, the court decides based on the best interest of the child. However, the court will always presume that children will benefit from both parents taking care of them. The only way they will consider otherwise is when there is evidence of abuse.

3. Put into Writing Your Partner Will Inherit Your Assets in Case of Death

While no one knows what will happen in the future, it’s always a smart move to name your partner as the heir of your properties and assets, as stated in the deceased partner’s last will. Some of these include joint bank accounts, pension, life insurance policies, and others.

For pension policies, note that the surviving partner must make this request through an expression of wishes form. For life insurance policies, you must name your partner as your sole beneficiary. But before making these moves, you must consult your lawyer to know more.

Understanding the law helps you and your partner make better decisions, helping you go through life and family relationships wisely. This also guides you in potential issues such as financial and property ownership. You get to avoid negative consequences and give yourself and your partner protection as granted by the law. With this, you and your partner can still live happily ever after without even saying your I dos.

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