Will Cohabitation Affect Your Divorce Settlement

Will Cohabitation Affect Your Divorce Settlement?

Living together before marriage is more common than at any time in recent history. According to a Pew Research study, the number of people who have ever cohabited is higher than the number of people who have ever been married. Several major studies disagree on whether people who live together before marriage are more or less likely to divorce. If divorce does become a reality, cohabitation might affect your divorce settlement.

Reaching a Divorce Settlement

Though the issues may vary, every divorcing couple needs to reach an agreement before finalizing their divorce. Otherwise, a judge will make the decisions for them.

One common issue is how to divide property and debts. In a community property state like California, the two basic types of assets are:

  • separate property, which belongs to one spouse; and
  • community property, which belongs to both spouses.

However, assets and debts can be partially separate and partially community. Property may begin as separate property and become at least partially owned by the other spouse. Cohabitation before marriage can complicate an already complex issue

Separate vs. Community Property May Become Muddled

Property division decisions are complicated enough when the couple started from scratch. People who live together before marriage may face additional issues. Should items purchased during the period of cohabitation be considered separate property or community?

For example, Chris decides to move into Dana’s house. Dana bought the house before they met, and it’s in his name. After living together for two years, they marry. During the time they cohabited, Chris contributed to mortgage payments, taxes, and insurance. After the wedding, the house may not be considered all Dana’s separate property, especially if the mortgage is paid with either parties’ income.

Cohabitation After Divorce Can Be a Complication

Some people live with a new love while receiving spousal support from an ex-spouse. Courts may consider such cohabitation similar to remarriage. California Family Code 4323(a)(1) notes that there may be a decreased need for spousal support of the receiving party is cohabiting with a nonmarital party. Still, judges have been reluctant to terminate or adjust spousal support based simply on such living arrangements.

Cohabitation and Your Divorce Settlement

It may seem that a couple’s legal entanglements begin only when they say, “I do.” However, the happy couple’s living arrangements before marriage may be a factor if their relationship ends.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.