Many couples choose to live together without getting married. For some, it can be the first step toward marriage, while for others, cohabiting can simply be a personal choice to forgo the legal institution of marriage.
But cohabiting couples may not have the same rights as married couples. Understanding the legal aspects of cohabitation can help you protect your personal assets should you and your partner decide to go your separate ways.
The following will help you understand marriage and cohabitation rights under Georgia state law. Consulting with a family law attorney can help you take the right steps to protect you and your partner’s wellbeing.
What is Cohabitation in Georgia?
Two people are considered to be cohabitating when they live together as a couple in the same manner as they would if they were legally married.
In Georgia, cohabitation is defined as living together on a continuous basis regardless of the sex of either person.
In a marriage, any assets or personal property acquired during the marriage are considered “marital property” and subject to equitable distribution in a divorce.
But couples who are cohabiting don’t share the same rights when it comes to marital property and other aspects related to family law.
Personal Assets in Cohabitation
When two people choose to cohabitate, they have no obligation to support each other financially unless an agreement has been established stating otherwise. In a marriage, one spouse may be entitled to alimony and other support after a divorce.
But in a cohabiting relationship, the person who is benefiting financially from the relationships may not be entitled to receive support once the relationship ends. Also, if any assets are jointly owned, they can still be difficult to divide when a couple isn’t married.
Cohabitating couples may also not have the same legal rights related to making medical care decisions for their partners. So if you choose to cohabitate, you should consider establishing power of attorney and other estate planning strategies.
Cohabitation doesn’t change ownership of personal assets. If you own a home that your partner moves into, you still retain full ownership of the property. You can also make decisions related to the sale of your property without your partner being involved.
But if you and your partner purchased a home together while cohabiting, each party is entitled to their share of the proceeds even after the relationship has ended.
Protecting Your Legal Rights in a Marriage and Cohabitation
You and your partner can enter into a contract to outline the duties and rights of each person. This helps you make important decisions about how to handle financial earnings and assets acquired during and after the relationship.
Some couples choose to keep separate all acquired assets while combining their incomes. Others may choose to hold all assets as shared and treat them accordingly when the relationship ends.
There are many legal arrangements you can choose to use when cohabitating. This can help you establish rights that are similar to those that married couples enjoy.
But Georgia courts don’t recognize cohabitation agreements, and they will refuse to hear cohabitation disputes. So having a family law attorney can ensure that you and your personal assets are protected.
Cohabitating couples need to understand how their legal rights are different from married couples. Cohabitation can open up the doors to potential disputes over personal assets and property.
An experienced family law attorney can help you take the steps you need to make your cohabitation or marriage work while considering the long-term impact that these arrangements can have on you and your partner.