What to Know About Unmarried Couples and Property

Unmarried couples might believe that splitting up is easier for them than it is for married couples. After all, there are no lawyers, judges or divorce courts necessary for a clean break. In a perfect split, the parties are in agreement on who gets what, the details are sorted, and the individuals go their own separate ways. If the parties are not in agreement, however, they might end up precisely where most married couples do – in court.

Here is what you should know about unmarried couples and property distribution:

Divorce Law Does Not Apply

You do not qualify for divorce court if you are not married — unless you live in a common law marriage state or a state that recognizes domestic partnership. In those states, there is still a chance that you might not qualify for divorce court.

The State of Tennessee does not recognize common law marriage, but Tennessee will recognize another state’s common law marriage. If the couple lived together long enough as common law man and wife in another state that did recognize common law and they moved to Tennessee, then it is recognized.

Sole And Separate Property

Unless you have opened joint banking or investment accounts, own a home that is titled in both of your names or otherwise title property jointly, the general rule is that each of you owns your own sole and separate property. A one-half ownership interest is presumed on jointly titled property, but that presumption might be overcome by a strong showing that one of the parties made a disproportionate contribution.

What About Children?

The family law division of your court system would address any issues of child custody, support and visitation. In Tennessee, the Juvenile Courts generally have jurisdiction over child custody, support and visitation in un-married couples. All other disputes would be addressed by a separate action or petition in the General Sessions Courts usually (depending on the amount of damages and type of property in dispute); therefore, instead of one court case that would dispose of all the issues, un-married couples potentially face multiple court cases to obtain relief, often increasing the time and expense of recovery.

Cohabitation Property Agreements

Much like a prenuptial agreement, courts will recognize a cohabitation property agreement between two individuals who are living together. The agreement would set out how various assets are owned, managed, and divided upon any future separation of the parties.

The agreement should have a dispute resolution provision on what process would be employed in case of a disagreement on division of property. Liability for debts must also be laid out, and if one partner wants the other to inherit, that should expressed through a will or living trust.

Note of importance: If you own a home together, pay particular attention to a buyout or sale provision.

A cohabitation property agreement will clear many issues in the event of the separation of two parties who are unmarried and living together. Those who cohabitate are best served by consultations with family law attorneys.

If you have further questions about being an unmarried couple and sharing assets, be sure to consult a professional for which steps you should next consider.

Documents to Gather When Considering Divorce

Divorce is stressful enough without having to scramble to find important legal documents that are necessary to finalize settlement. Gathering important financial, legal, and personal documents before meeting with an attorney can help you through the divorce process in several ways.

First and foremost, getting your hands on essential documents before divorce proceedings is crucial because these types of documents may suddenly disappear once your spouse begins his or her own divorce preparation. Obtaining documents also orients you to what divorce will entail and prepares you mentally for what lies ahead.

You can save money on legal fees by being ahead of the game when you and your lawyer sit down to plan out your divorce’s details. If you would like to finalize your divorce sooner rather than later, having appropriate documentation on hand will help expedite the process.

So, what documents do you need to collect before proceeding with your divorce?

Financial

  • Bank Statements for the past 24 months
  • Pay stubs for both you and your spouse
    • (YTD for previous two years and current year)
  • Tax Records for the last five years
  • Retirement information for you and your spouse
  • Mortgage information
  • Credit Card Statements
  • Current debt of you and your spouse
  • Household budget
  • Credit reports for you and your spouse
  • Household Bills (utilities, medical expenses, children’s tuition, etc.)
  • Life, Health, Automobile, Homeowner’s, and other insurance information
  • List of any personal property owned by you and your spouse before marriage and their approximate value
  • Inventory of joint assets and their approximate value
  • Documents supporting any inheritances or gifts

Legal

  • Marriage License
  • Birth Certificates for you, your spouse, and any children
  • Social Security Cards for you, your spouse, and any children
  • Driver’s licenses for you and your spouse
  • Separation, prenuptial or other legal agreements between you and your spouse
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Wills, Living Wills, and any Advanced Directives
  • Titles and Registrations for any vehicles owned by you and your spouse

Proof of Misconduct (If Applicable)

  • Emails
  • Photographs
  • Telephone Records
  • Police records, restraining orders, or proof of domestic violence
  • Private Investigator reports

Other Documentation

If you are unable to obtain certain documents, write down as much information as possible about each one. You should include in this list the types of documents needed, dates, parties involved, document contents, and any other relevant information. Recording your attempts to obtain documentation may also prove valuable if your spouse refuses to hand over vital information.

Once you have gathered the above documents and anything else that might be applicable to your particular situation, you are ready to speak to an attorney and move into the next phase of divorce proceedings.

5 Skills You Need Before Becoming A Foster Parent

Becoming a foster parent can be infinitely rewarding, and it can provide a calm and loving home to a child in need of stability and care. However, the process of applying to be a foster parent and actually hosting a child in your home can be quite difficult. Here are some skills all potential foster parents need to have before welcoming a foster child to their home.

Patience

Perhaps the top skill future foster parents will need to develop is patience. Patience is critical when interacting with government agencies, concerned friends and family, your own family when they are struggling in the transition, and the foster child you will welcome into your home. Sometimes foster children can exhibit quite challenging behavior, and it is important to remain calm and loving in even the most difficult situation.

Organization

Foster parents need to be organized and educated about foster laws in their state and community. It is important to research the requirements for foster homes and parents in your state in order to know what will be expected of your family. Remember that becoming a foster parent can be a highly bureaucratic process that takes time and organization to complete successfully.

Communication

Foster parents are required to communicate professionally with a wide range of people, including social workers, lawyers and judges, doctors, teachers, and therapists. For this reason, couples considering becoming foster parents should ask themselves if they are ready for this level of responsibility.

Compassion

Potential foster parents need to have compassion. It is important to understand that the child coming into your home may be coming from a very traumatic situation, and he or she may act out in ways that are challenging to handle. Compassion is key in these circumstances. Foster parents also need to have compassion for their own children and their spouse; hosting a foster child can be difficult for the whole family, and it is important to recognize these difficulties and talk about them as a family.

Maintaining Realistic Expectations

Sometimes parents begin the process of accepting a foster child into their home with unrealistic expectations. One expectation is that they will be able to adopt their foster child permanently. While this does happen, remember that most foster children will only stay with your family a short time. In general, most states prefer to place children with suitable relatives if at all possible. Another expectation future foster parents hold is that they will be able to make a miraculous change in their foster child’s life. While foster parents can have a very positive impact on a child’s life, they should not expect dramatic change.

What Does “Conscious Uncoupling” Mean During Divorce?

In 2014, actress Gwyneth Paltrow announced that she and her husband of ten years were in the process of “conscious uncoupling” of their marriage. Few at the time understood what was meant by the phrase, causing some to search for an answer. An article in the Wall Street Journal determined a New Zealand therapist first used the phrase in 2006 in a research paper. Three years later, Katherine Woodward Thomas, a US marriage therapist, used the phrase when discussing the value of a cooperative separation.

The Meaning of Conscious Uncoupling

There is no precise definition of the term, but (according to Thomas) it implies the goal of ending the relationship in a positive, cooperative and respectful manner. Rather than concentrating on the negative, when consciously uncoupling, the parties strive to complete the relationship with mutual respect and accentuate the positive aspects of the past.

The Legal Effect of Conscious Uncoupling in Divorce

In short, if parties choose to consciously uncouple, it has no legal effect on the marriage. It will not terminate the marriage, divide property, allocate liabilities, or provide for the care and custody of minor children. To terminate the marriage, parties must still undergo a divorce proceeding. Parties can also, in most states, enter into a legal separation, where a court will divide property, award custody of minor children, order child support and determine who is responsible for marital debts.

The Practical Effect of Conscious Uncoupling in Divorce

It is in this area where the parties will benefit the most from the concept of conscious uncoupling. It is universally accepted that divorce can be an extremely traumatic event in the lives of the couples, and this can be especially true of parties with minor children. In addition, prolonged and acrimonious divorce proceedings can add an enormous cost to the proceedings and prevent the parties from turning a corner in their lives.

Techniques or exercises to strive for cooperation between the parties will lessen costs, and mitigate the emotional impact of the proceedings. Courts are extremely receptive to divorce agreements, mediation, arbitration and informal settlement of disputes. The area of alternative dispute resolution is one of the growing areas of law in the past 20 years or so.

In some ways, the concept of conscious uncoupling isn’t new. For many years, the phrases “amicable divorce” and “uncontested divorce” have been present in most states. But if new method of looking at a similar goal is successful, the parties benefit, the court system benefits, and society as a whole benefits.