Even if a couple isn’t married, there are legal matters they need to navigate when dissolving a domestic partnership. Portland divorce attorney Colin Amos fielded questions on maneuvering through that tricky terrain.
The first question he tackled: “My girlfriend and I are breaking up. We have been together for 12 years; we have a 9 year old son, a house together, and some other property. We can’t agree on anything. What should I do, a custody case doesn’t address our property disputes?”
Colin is quick to point out that this question is relevant to a lot of listeners —people that just aren’t getting married but are having kids and purchasing property together.
This burgeoning area of law falls into the arena of domestic partnership. These couples have many of the same disputes to resolve as a married couple facing divorce. In this particular situation, there is a custody case that requires addressing parenting time and child support.
Colin recommends, in addition to the custody case, filing a dissolution of domestic partnership will create a forum for a rational discussion to divide up the assets.
The second question focused on common law marriage —a topic that often arises in discussing domestic partnerships. Colin provides advice on the subject when posed with the question:
“My girlfriend and I have been together for eight years and are breaking up. We have kept our properties separate, the house is only in my name and we have a common account only to pay common bills. She says we have a common law marriage, and she is entitled to half of everything, including my retirement. Is this true?”
If the question above sounds familiar you can stop holding your breath. It is not true—she is not entitled to half of everything. This is a distinction that is important.
If you act like a married couple, after a long period of time the court is more inclined to treat you like a married couple. This means having joint accounts, buying property together, having kids, etc., doing things a married couple would do.
In the above scenario everything has been kept separate, this will make it hard for the individual to establish that assets were commingled like a married couple would do. So, in this instance there is no common law marriage.