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Not married? Dividing assets might be complicated

An increasing trend for couples across the country is to cohabitate without getting married. However, spending years with the same person can have the same results as if you were both married – you might have bought a house together, opened joint bank accounts and credit cards and had children. At the Mayer Law Office, LLC, we understand that long-term cohabitation can be complicated for you and other Wisconsin residents if the relationship did not last.

You and your spouse would have certain protections during a legal divorce, such as the terms you drew up during a prenuptial agreement or equitable property division laws. Wisconsin law does not specifically address the division of marital property for cohabitating couples, since they were never legally married. Additionally, Wisconsin is not one of the few states that recognize common law marriage, according to the State Bar of Wisconsin.

Despite this, you and your partner might have accumulated significant assets together that you wish to divide fairly. How do you do this? You might consider seeking a cohabited divorce action, which may allow fair division of the assets you accumulated during a “de facto” marriage – in other words, a long-term cohabitated relationship. You would need to be able to claim that you and your partner obtained assets together, such as property, furniture and vehicles, and that you contributed financially to the relationship. It might also help if you could claim that your partner is retaining an unreasonable amount of your joint assets.

The division of property can be a complex matter when you were not legally married and may require experienced legal counsel, which our family law page discusses in further detail.

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