What Is the Law When Unmarried Couples Separate?

Written by sarita sheree
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According to the 2008 USA Today article "Living Together No Longer 'Playing House,'" 9.6 per cent of all opposite sex couples living together in 2007 were unmarried. Although there is no uniformity in law, the courts in every sate have ruled that separated unmarried couples are not entitled to the same rights as married couples who divorce.

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Child Custody

If there is no court order, a child's biological parents have equal rights to him. There is no legal presumption about who he should live with.

Child Support

Biological parents have a legal responsibility to pay child support, even if it's not court-ordered.


Debts are governed by contract. If two people jointly sign a contract, both are responsible for the debt. If only one person signs a contract, that individual is solely responsible for the debt. This applies even if their ex-partner paid the debt until the date of separation or kept the property secured by the debt.


Generally, unmarried couples cannot ask for a court's intervention in deciding who is entitled to property following a separation.

Cohabitation Agreements

Cohabitation agreements, which can be oral or written, are not recognised by all states. Cohabitation agreements essentially outline an unmarried couple's agreement as to how property and debt should be divided if they separate.

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