Do We Have to Divide Assets If We’re Not Married?
If you are in a long-term relationship that is ending, this can be a difficult and sensitive experience. If the two of you were not legally married, you might wonder what you are legally required to do. It can seem overwhelming and confusing to know where to turn.
Long-term relationships do not always last a lifetime. In the year 2019, the state of Georgia had the 9th highest divorce rate in the US. While divorce law is complex, an experienced family law attorney can help you navigate this emotional time.
What Is Common-Law Marriage?
There are a variety of reasons why two partners in a relationship may choose not to be married legally. This is a deeply personal decision. Instead of marriage, they may choose cohabitation, which is when two unmarried persons live together.
Common-law marriage can result from such an arrangement. In order for the relationship to be considered a common-law marriage, the following requirements must be satisfied:
- The couple must live together
- The couple must “hold themselves out” as a married couple
- The couple must intend to be married
- Both people must legally be able to be married, meaning they must be of age and have the mental capacity to enter into a marriage
The concept of holding yourself out as a married couple refers to things like sharing rent and holding joint financial accounts, such as credit cards or bank accounts. It can also include taking the same last name and publicly referring to each other as your “spouse.”
Is Georgia a Common-Law State?
Georgia no longer recognizes new common-law marriages created on or after January 1, 1997. However, any common-law marriages created before this date are still recognized by the state. In addition, Georgia recognizes common-law marriages that were legally created in another state.
If you believe your relationship may qualify as a common-law marriage, you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney to understand how the implications may affect you.
When a Common-Law Marriage Ends, Are We Required to Divide Assets?
In a common-law marriage, both people have the same rights as if they were legally married. This means that when the common-law marriage ends, it must go through the divorce process. This will include the division of assets, debts, and property. That said, as with a legal marriage, you do not necessarily have to go to trial when a common-law marriage ends.
You also have the option to pursue alternative resolutions, such as mediation. This can be a beneficial option in cases when the relationship is ending in a relatively cordial manner. The goal of mediation is generally to find an amicable settlement that works for both spouses.
There are several reasons why you may choose mediation over a traditional divorce to end your common law marriage. Mediation typically involves less tension and stress than divorce. Mediation also typically costs less money and takes less time as compared to traditional divorce.
When you go to trial in traditional divorce, a judge will make decisions based on the law and their discretion. In mediation, both spouses have more control over the outcome than in divorce. This means that if you both come to an understanding together regarding the division of assets during mediation, you can, in a sense, “control your destiny.”
Your settlement agreement can reflect the understanding you have reached. Both parties might find this type of arrangement to be mutually beneficial. It can be particularly impactful when children are involved. This is because mediation involves more of a spirit of cooperation and is usually less contentious than traditional divorce.
Do I Need an Attorney?
When a relationship ends, you never know how it will unfold. What may begin as a relatively calm dissolution can quickly turn ugly. When the reality of the division of assets sets in, a person’s demeanor and attitude can shift dramatically.
This means you need someone who is looking out for your best interests throughout the divorce process. You also need someone who understands the complexity of divorce law and the implications that may apply to you. An experienced lawyer will be able to advise you of your options with your priorities and goals continually in mind.
Call Kessler & Solomiany, LLC Today
If your common-law marriage in Georgia is ending, you need to speak with an experienced divorce attorney. We could help you understand your unique situation and your options for obtaining the results you seek.
Call (404) 688-8810 today to speak with an Atlanta divorce attorney from Kessler & Solomiany, LLC about your case. You can also submit a contact form online, and we’ll be in touch as soon as we are able. Let our experienced attorneys guide you through the divorce process so you can focus on moving forward with your life.