Dividing property when unmarried couples end a relationship

On Behalf of | Sep 20, 2021 | property division | 0 comments

Washington state judges recognize that when a committed intimate relationship leads to cohabitation, the couples often acquire valuable assets together. As noted by the Seattle Times, unmarried couples contributed 16% toward first-time home purchases in 2017 based on a report issued by the National Association of Realtors.

Whether unmarried couples paid for an asset with cash or signed a mortgage note, they may have already established an equal percentage of ownership. When two individuals purchase property together as joint tenants with the right of survivorship, for example, a title typically lists each person as a 50% owner.

Joint tenants with the right of survivorship may opt for a sale, buyout or trade

An end of a relationship for two joint owners may involve selling an asset and splitting its after-tax proceeds in half. One joint owner may also offer to buy out the other owner for half of the property’s fair market value. If an unmarried couple purchased several valuable assets together, they may also consider trading one asset for another while they dissolve their household.

Cohabitation agreements may outline a mutually agreeable division

As noted by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, a committed intimate relationship may require a signed cohabitation agreement when two individuals live together as though they have married. Couples may also create a contingency plan to divide their assets in a way that both individuals deem fair. Absent a signed agreement, the start and end date of the relationship may help determine which assets require dividing.

Washington state’s community property laws consider all assets and income obtained during a marriage as belonging equally to both spouses. The state views unmarried cohabitation similarly. When ending a committed intimate relationship involving cohabitation, each individual generally has an ownership right to half of their shared property’s value.

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