rights of unmarried mccart and tesmer law

There are many benefits to marriage – higher tax deductions, another person to navigate life with, rights to property, children, and more. But what about the rights of unmarried couples? Living in Florida means no state tax, sunshine, white sand beaches, and benefits for unmarried couples! Our team has spent years understanding and working for those rights. So what rights do you have if you are navigating life with your partner but are not legally married?

Couples decide not to legally marry for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Reduction or termination of Social Security or Survivor’s Benefits
  • Ineligibility for Medicaid and long-term care
  • Move one partner into a high tax bracket 
  • Increase tax liability 
  • Reduce or terminate alimony for recipient partner
  • Loss of Financial Aid for a college-aged child

For most of us, we have a pretty good idea as to if we want to marry someone or not, but for those of you who have yet to decide, there are a few things to prepare for to have a successful future with your loved one. From property rights to alimony and paternity to inheritance, there is a slew of legal documentation that can help set you and your partner up for success.

Property Rights of Unmarried Couples:

When you are married and own property together, you automatically have statutory rights to each other’s property. This property can be both tangible or intangible whether it is houses, cars, electronics, pets, intellectual property and so much more. For couples who are not married but cohabitate, you are not subject to various property laws. These laws that were set up to protect married individuals do not benefit the unmarried, however, this isn’t the end of the road. 

As your relationship blossoms so do your assets, and with this growth comes wealth. To prepare you for this growth we suggest you create a property agreement with your partner. This agreement is a legally binding document that states the ownership right per individual and states who is entitled to what in case of a separation. Without this agreement, there is no guarantee that you will be able to claim anything from the relationship as your own. Depending on your situation, this agreement may be the only thing protecting you from ending up with nothing. 

Inheritance Rights of Unmarried Couples:

Inheritance is one of those terms that tends to lend itself to drama. Whether you heard the words from one of your favorite true crime podcasts or heard it while watching one of your soap operas, you know that when a loved one passes inheritance is a big topic of discussion. 

For those who haven’t heard the term, inheritance means the passing down of private property, debts, privileges, rights, titles, and obligations upon the death of a loved one. But what does that mean for unmarried couples? Unfortunately, it means that upon the death of you or your partner, the other party has no legal right to your property. In unmarried cases, the next of kin or the parents of the departed is the next in line to be awarded your joint property.

Bummer, right? Well, don’t fret, you have other options besides getting married and that comes with your estate planning. If both you and your partner agree, you will have to name each other the Agent in a Power of Attorney as well as a Surrogate to make healthcare decisions. You will also need to name each other as a Personal Representative and beneficiary in your Last Will and Testament or Trustee and beneficiary in Trust.

Alimony Rights of Unmarried Couples:

You may have heard this term before, but alimony is a legal obligation of a person that requires them to provide financial support to their long-term spouse before and after a divorce. Alimony takes into consideration the quality of life that you and your former spouse created while in your relationship and awards the individual with the lesser income enough support to sustain life after a divorce. Unfortunately, when this comes to unmarried couples, you are not eligible for alimony. 

However, for those of you that are now divorced, receiving alimony, and in a new relationship, you need to be careful if you want to continue to receive your benefits. Although your last thought maybe marriage, cohabitating in an unmarried relationship may terminate your previously ordered alimony. According to Florida law, when the recipient of alimony starts to live with another person in a way that suggests they intend to live like a married couple, it could terminate the alimony or modify it downward.

Paternity Rights of Unmarried Couples:

In Florida, when an unwed couple has a child, the mother is presumed to have all legal rights to the child. Until a circuit court determines who is the legal father, the mother can decide all aspects of the child’s life. From where the child lives, what medical treatment they may need, and even if the child can visit with the biological father, the mother has all of the control.

Although many would believe that having the father’s name on the birth certificate of their child would be enough to prove legality, it is not. To be considered as the child’s legal father and retain custody of the child, the father must sign up for Florida’s Putative Father Registry to preserve his right to notice and consent in the event of an adoption or custody battle. The father will also need to consent to a DNA test, which does not automatically guarantee the father’s rights or timesharing, but will get them one step close to becoming the legal father of the child.

Once the legality of the father is proven, the father can petition the court in a paternity case and the court will enter a parenting plan which is a written directive of each parent’s rights and obligations to the child. The court will then determine the number of nights in a year the child resides with the Mother and the Father.  With this information plus each parents’ monthly income and child expenses, a child support amount will be calculated pursuant to the Florida Child Support Guidelines.

With all that said, there are a lot of factors to think about when deciding to stay unmarried with a partner. The Law offices McCart & Tesmer is here to help you with the process whether you are looking to start the estate planning process, needing a property agreement for a large purchase with your unwed spouse, or navigating a paternity case. For more information, call us at 813.498.2757 or email us at info@mccartandtesmer.com.

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