Cohabitating couples, consult an attorney before buying a house

One of the most difficult decisions facing many divorcing couples is what to do with their marital residence. A jointly owned home can pose significant logistical and financial challenges regardless of whether one spouse decides to stay or whether the house is sold off and the assets are divided.

As you might expect, it is even more challenging for unmarried couples who have ended their relationship after jointly purchasing a home. For unmarried cohabitating couples, taking certain legal precautions prior to buying a house could mean the difference between a split that is quick and relatively amicable and one that is a drawn-out, expensive nightmare.

For instance, a couple may decide to draft a pre-purchase agreement stating that if the relationship ends, the house will be sold and the assets will be split. Neither partner will keep the house.

Even with this agreement in place, however, there is still the sometimes-complicated issue of dividing the proceeds. It is rare that both partners contribute equally to the equity in the home. More often, one partner will have invested more money into mortgage payments or into the costs of renovation and improvement. Each partner’s investment will need to be accurately assessed before sale proceeds can be divided.

Thankfully, unmarried couples in Arizona can nonetheless enjoy legal protections in the event of a split if they have the foresight to enter into a domestic partnership agreement. An experienced family law attorney can help couples understand their legal rights and options and can help draw up the paperwork.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Unmarried Couples Buying a House Together May Also Be Buying Trouble,” Jack M. Guttentag, March 19, 2014

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