We Lived Together Before Getting Married—Will that Affect Our Divorce?
Many people move in with their partner before they officially tie the knot. Indeed, the Pew Research Center reports that nearly two thirds of Americans lived with their partner before they got married. Often referred to as ‘cohabitating’, many people believe that this type of arrangement offers useful advantages.
You may be wondering: Does a period of pre-marriage cohabitation carry any legal weight? The answer is usually ‘no’—that you lived together before getting married typically does not affect your rights. Though, there are some limited exceptions. Here, our Clearwater divorce attorney explains what you need to know about pre-marriage cohabitation and divorce in Florida.
Florida Does Not Recognize Common Law Marriage
Broadly defined, a common law marriage is a marriage between two people who did not officially obtain a license nor have a ceremony. In a small number of U.S. states, common law marriages are still recognized—at least in some limited capacity. Some jurisdictions may view a couple as “married” for the purposes of certain legal issues if they cohabited for a long enough period of time.
Florida is not one of those states. Common law marriages are not recognized as legally meaningfully in Florida. You may have heard someone say that you will be considered married to your partner if you lived together for a certain number of years. That is simply not the case in our state. Cohabitation with an intimate partner—even if for decades—does not constitute a marriage in Florida.
How a Pre-Marriage Cohabitation Could Impact Your Divorce: Property Distribution
It is possible that a period of cohabitation could have an effect on property division. In Florida, marital property is subject to equitable distribution. Separate property remains individually owned by each party. With this in mind, a divorcing couple needs to figure exactly which property/assets are jointly owned and which ones are individually owned. Notably, property acquired before the marriage may be kept as a separate asset in Florida.
Here is the complicated factor: A period of pre-marriage cohabitation can make it quite difficult for either spouse to keep much (if any) of their assets as separate property. If a couple lived together for an extended period of time before getting married, it is more difficult to keep any property “separate” without a legally valid marital agreement. Often, their property is commingled to the extent that it will all be considered a marital asset. Though, the specific circumstances of the case always matter.
Schedule a Strictly Confidential Divorce Consultation Today
At the Law Office of Gale H. Moore P.A., our Florida divorce lawyer is an experienced and diligent advocate for clients. We are committed to helping people find effective, practical solutions in family law. Do you need legal advice or support? Our lawyer is here to help. Contact us now for a completely confidential initial consultation. We handle family and divorce cases throughout the entire region, including in Largo, Clearwater, Dunedin, Oldsmar, Indian Shores, and Seminole.