More and more people live together, have children, and share their lives without ever getting a marriage license. If you’ve been living together and are now breaking up, you may be wondering how to resolve things like child support, custody, and property division if you weren’t actually married.
New Jersey does not recognize common law marriage (in some states if you live together for a certain number of years and act as if you are married, you are considered to be legally married), so an unmarried couple has no right to seek a divorce in New Jersey courts. (Note that New Jersey has civil unions for gay couples and there is a legal procedure for ending a civil union.) That doesn’t mean there is no legal help available. The Family Practice Division of the N.J. Superior Court handles custody and child support cases for all families, married or unmarried. You are also entitled to seek legal and law enforcement help with domestic violence regardless of your marital status.
There is no legal method to obtain alimony if you have never been married. There is also no division of property and debts available in family court for unmarried couples. However, jointly owned property and debts are distributable through civil court processes if you are unable to come to an agreement with your former partner. You will both remain liable for joint titled debts. Each of you is liable for any debts in your individual names. Joint assets (such as bank accounts) technically belong to both of you and must be divided. Accounts in individual names remain with that person. Mediation can be very useful for unmarried couples and can help you reach agreements about how to divide up your assets and belongings in a way that makes sense with the least amount of conflict.
If you are unmarried and separating, DeTorres and DeGeorge LLC can help you resolve your custody, child support, and financial issues.