Never Legally Married? Your Next Steps During a Separation
Not every couple in a committed relationship decides to get married. Some couples across Michigan may live together for years without obtaining a marriage license. While this relationship is typical, it can make matters complicated when long-term couples decide to part ways.
Cohabitation laws regarding property, assets, and parenting are somewhat of a gray area in Michigan. In the case of unmarried couples, the separation process can be particularly confusing.
Learn more about Michigan’s unmarried separation laws below.
Key Considerations for Unmarried Couples
Any couple who lives together without the protections of a legal marriage should understand these basic principles under Michigan law:
Common Law Marriage Does Not Apply
Michigan did away with “common law marriage” in 1957. Under current statutes, courts do not grant legal presumption regarding interests in any property owned between partners.
In other words, assets acquired before or during an unmarried relationship are considered individual property under Michigan law.
Services Are Gratuitous
Any services provided or offered by each partner during an unmarried relationship are presumed gratuitous under the law.
This means that there is no legally required remuneration under Michigan law for any services provided during the relationship. Examples include building a house together or assisting in a business venture.
Some Contracts Are not Legally Enforceable
Any legal contracts signed under the pretense of a marital-like relationship are not enforceable under Michigan law. Only when a couple is legally married are any implied contracts or agreements enforceable.
Independent Legal Agreements Are Key
Legal agreements concerning money, property, or assets must be made independent of the marital-like relationship. This means they must be treated outside of the relationship as one would treat them with a friend or business associate.
Marriage Legally Protects Couples’ Interests
Marriage provides built-in protection for couples who are separating. Unfortunately, unmarried couples attempting to separate have few legal protections in Michigan.
Separation can present many legal problems for unmarried couples who do not take precautions to protect their assets. The choice to bypass marriage can result in a complex legal battle, so it’s best to plan ahead.
Child Custody and Unmarried Couples
For unmarried couples with children, custody laws are slightly different in Michigan than in many other states.
Unless a father obtains a custody order, custodial rights under Michigan law are given to the mother by default. For fathers in an unmarried relationship, this can pose a problem because they won’t have legal visitation rights after separation.
Unmarried fathers can obtain legal visitation rights with the mother’s consent. They may also file a paternity action in court.
Any legal issue involving a child and unmarried parents can become complex. Still, a knowledgeable family law attorney can review the situation and develop a plan of action in the child’s best interests.
Oakland County Separation Attorney
If you are part of an unmarried couple going through a separation, consult with a family law attorney. Gucciardo Family Law represents unmarried separation cases throughout Oakland County. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.
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