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You and your partner broke up, now what?  

Cohabitation Break-Ups

You and your partner broke up, now what?

by Mike Schulz, Associate Attorney

For unmarried couples who live together, breaking up can be far more complicated than couples going through a divorce. Wisconsin does not recognize the concept of common law partners, and unmarried couples are not afforded the protection of marital property laws and codified divorce procedures. Instead, any unresolved issues that require the court’s involvement will be treated as a separate civil case between individuals. This often means that resources available to divorcing couples are not an option, which in turn can drive up litigation costs.

Determining paternity may also be a problem for unmarried couples. Without a formal declaration of paternity with the court or a stipulation between the parents, one parent will not have custodial rights.  Even where all property is mixed and assets shared, spousal support or maintenance is also unavailable to unmarried couples. Although both parents are obligated to contribute towards financial support for their children, that obligation does not extend to a former partner like it might for a divorced couple.

Cohabitation also can raise issues regarding estate planning.  Without a will or trust directing where assets go upon death, any property that is not jointly with a survivorship interest will not pass on to the surviving partner. Instead, the estate would go to their default heirs – likely children or surviving parents.

Whether it is the personal property division, joint ownership of a home or car, assignment of debt, children, or even pets – these issues can be more difficult to unwind without the usual divorce procedures.  Cohabitation agreements are a proactive solution to many of these problems, and can streamline an otherwise long and stressful ending of a relationship.

Russell Law Offices, S.C. can help take the sting off a breakup by drafting a cohabitation agreement in case your relationship results in a breakup. Contact the office today to schedule your consultation.

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