Saturday, December 1, 2007

Living Together: The View from Virginia and Some Thoughts About Indiana

Reading Don’t settle for shacking up. at the VA Family Law Blog made me think while things are bad in Indiana for people living together they can be worse elsewhere.

"Despite its increasing popularity, Virginia law certainly does not favor romantic partners who decide to combine households without getting married. I am not even talking about our antiquated (but still on the books) criminal statute which makes cohabitation a misdemeanor, since the chances of being prosecuted are pretty low. What seems to surprise and frustrate people is that in our glorious Commonwealth you can invest your hard-earned salary, heart, soul and daily efforts into a household and upon breakup, walk away with absolutely nothing."
Therein lies the ray of sunshine for Indiana - you can litigate to get something. Okay, I know that ray of sunshine will not be much solace after you pay the costs of litigation. Still , we do not make cohabitation illegal.
This is where the law can be pretty cruel. If these folks had been married, they would have responsibilities to each other. Without marriage, the only legal tie they may have is through the titles on their assets. If the house was titled in the man’s name, he will keep it after the break up. No, it will not matter one little bit if the woman helped pay the mortgage, paid for a room to be finished or contributed in any other way. If the woman put her career in low gear to help with his kids, she will get nothing back. Whatever retirement assets either of them amassed will not be equalized. If he promised to take care of her forever, well tough luck. That promise will not be enforceable.
Now that does make living together in Indiana a bit more palatable than Virginia.
What if they had a contract? If the cohabitants had entered into a written contract setting out their rights and responsibilities, they would be a rare case. But the contract may not be enforceable: remember that Constitutional Amendment that Virginia voters passed a few years ago? It specifically says that nonmarried persons will NOT be allowed to confer rights on themselves that married people enjoy.
Which sounds exactly like the constitutional amendment proposed here and defeated last year. I made mention of how this issue is coming up again in this post here.

One thing remains true between Virginia and Indiana: marriage provides better protection for people sharing money and assets.

The questions remains for those who choose not to marry but to share money and assets is this: why do you not have a cohabitation agreement?

No comments: