The structure and landscape of the American family is changing. Not that long ago it was culturally taboo for a couple to live together without the benefit of marriage. This is no longer the case, and it is now very common for people to reside together, plan for the future together, and even have children together without even ever considering the possibility of formalizing their relationship. There are some issues, however, that parties should be aware of when considering how their rights may change with cohabitation versus being married.
First, parties should understand that regardless of whether they every get married, their parental rights to their children will not change. Once a father has become the legal father, either because he is presumed to be the father because of marriage or because he and the child’s mother have executed a Certificate of Parentage acknowledging that he is the father, that father has the right to file custody or visitation regarding the children, regardless of whether the parties were ever married. Similarly, the child support calculation is not impacted by whether the parties were married, including how much the paying parent will owe.
Next, parties should understand that at the end of a marriage, a judge will make an equitable distribution of the parties’ marital assets. The judge will take into account a variety of factors when deciding which spouse will receive which asset and who is responsible for which debt. When the parties were never married, there will be no such division. It will be up to the parties to divide up their assets, and in the event there is a disagreement, the person whose name is attached to the asset (such as a car or real estate) will likely be the one to walk away from the relationship with the entire asset. It is possible for the other party to try to take the other to court to seek a division of an asset, but these law suits can be lengthy, costly, and far from a sure outcome.
Finally, parties should understand that while spousal support is never guaranteed in a divorce, it is not a possibility at all when the parties were never married. There are some limited circumstances in which a party can seek palimony, which is essentially support when the parties were never married, but these circumstances are extremely limited and rare.The decision to get married can be difficult, and you should understand your rights and responsibilities before going forward. Contact us today at (732) 529-6937 to talk about your marriage and your rights.