Cohabitation and the distribution of assets

divorce attorney Jill DuffyQuestion:

I am in a cohabitating relationship where we both keep our finances separate.

I don’t believe our relationship would be defined as a “common law marriage,” but if we break up will she have a right to make a claim to any of my assets?


First, let me preface my answer by stating that I am only licensed to practice law in Michigan. The information in the article is general in nature. You should contact an attorney in your jurisdiction immediately to discuss your options.

In most states, people who are living together but are not married, do not have a claim to the other’s assets. A judge does not have authority to award your girlfriend your assets if you break up because you do not have a legal relationship with her (and vice versa).

However, if you are to get married, she may be entitled to a share of any assets you acquire during the term of your marriage.

There are two ways to classify property acquired during a marriage: community property or equitable distribution. In a community property state all property acquired during the marriage is divided equally (50/50). In an equitable distribution state, all property acquired during the marriage is divided “equitably,” or fairly. Not necessarily equally.

Cordell & Cordell represents men in divorce nationwide.


Jill A. Duffy is an Associate Attorney in the Troy, Mich., office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in the state of Michigan. Ms. Duffy received her BA in Psychology and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oakland University. She received her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

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