Cohabiting Considerations: Why Unmarried Couples Should Use Mediation When Splitting Up
When married couples realize their relationship won’t work, they use divorce to end their marriages and move forward with their lives. But what about couples who were never married? If you and your partner have been living together for years but never formally tied the knot, it can be hard to tell what your rights are if you decide to split up. Many of the laws governing marital assets and other separation-related issues don’t apply to you, so how can you make sure you’re each getting what you deserve when you split up? Mediation allows all couples to negotiate an end to their relationship, regardless of whether that relationship was ever formalized as a marriage.
The benefits of mediation for unmarried couples
Mediation is the art of negotiating an end to your relationship and coming up with an agreement that you and your partner can both be happy with for the long haul. It's often used by divorcing couples as a more effective and affordable alternative to going to court. But because it is a private negotiation rather than a legal decision, mediation is also available to unmarried couples.
In mediation, you and your partner will meet with a trained mediator to discuss all the issues that will arise when you split up. These tend to include:
- Living spaces — If you and your partner own a home together or have both signed your lease, you’ll need to figure out who will keep living in this home and how they will compensate the other. Alternatively, if you own the home, you may decide to sell it and split the proceeds evenly; in this case, you’ll have to divide up the work required to market the house, meet with potential buyers, and carry out other sales activities. A mediator can help you make all these decisions and come up with a plan to respect each other’s interests as you stop living together.
- Other assets — In addition to your home, you and your partner may own other assets that you bought together or that you each have a legitimate claim to. Perhaps you both pitched in to purchase a car, or you founded a business together. A mediator can review both of your claims to each item you own and divide them up as equitably as possible.
- Children — Unlike laws governing shared assets, child custody and support laws do apply to unmarried couples who have children together, at least in the State of New York. So if you have children together, you need to make sure you’re complying with these laws. A mediator can help you divide up your childcare and financial responsibilities in a way that follows all applicable laws and ensures you each get a chance to spend time with your kids.