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San Jose Divorce Attorney > Blog > Family > Legal Protections and Obligations of Unmarried Couples

Legal Protections and Obligations of Unmarried Couples


Unmarried couples who choose to live together face unique legal challenges and considerations, which vary significantly from those encountered by married couples. At Foster Hsu, LLP in San Jose, California, we specialize in guiding our clients through these complexities with clear and thoroughlegal support. This blog post delves into the key areas where legal protections and obligations for unmarried couples come into play.

What Are Cohabitation Agreements?

A cohabitation agreement is an essential tool for any unmarried couple living together. This legal document is similar to a prenuptial agreement and specifies each partner’s responsibilities and rights. It can cover various topics such as property division, debt liabilities, and support arrangements should the relationship end. By establishing a cohabitation agreement, partners can set clear expectations and reduce potential conflicts.

Property Rights

In California, unlike in a marriage, there is no automatic entitlement to shared property for unmarried couples. Property acquired by one person during the relationship generally remains theirs unless it can be shown that there was a clear intention that the asset be jointly owned. However, if both partners have contributed financially to an asset, there may be a claim of joint interest, depending on the circumstances.

What Happens If An Unmarried Couple Has Children?

Parental rights can be particularly complicated for unmarried couples. If a couple is not married at the time of a child’s birth, the father does not automatically have parental rights. Legal paternity must be established for the father to gain custody or visitation rights with the child, which can be done by signing a voluntary declaration at birth or by obtaining a court order.

Support Obligations

Support obligations between unmarried partners are not as clear-cut as those between divorced spouses. Generally, there is no duty to support an ex-partner once the relationship ends, unless there is an explicit agreement stating otherwise. Such support arrangements are usually outlined in a cohabitation agreement, reflecting the intentions and agreements made during the relationship.

Ending the Relationship

Dissolving a cohabitation situation can be legally complex, particularly regarding the division of property and other assets or debts. Without a marriage’s legal framework, the resolution of these matters often depends on contract law, rather than the equitable remedies available through family law.

Seek Legal Advice at Foster Hsu, LLP

For unmarried couples, navigating the maze of legal rights and obligations without the benefits and protections afforded by marriage requires careful planning and legal insight. Creating a cohabitation agreement, understanding property rights implications, and ensuring proper legal recognition of parental rights are all crucial steps in safeguarding your interests.

At Foster Hsu, LLP, we are committed to providing expert legal advice tailored to the unique needs of unmarried couples. Whether you are just starting to live together or seeking to resolve a legal issue arising from your relationship, our experienced attorneys can help you understand your rights and responsibilities under California law. With our San Jose family lawyers, you can achieve peace of mind and focus on building your life together.

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