Many California couples live together for years or decades without choosing to marry or register a domestic partnership. In their time together, the lives of such couples become intertwined, including their financial lives. If a cohabiting couple separates, the parties do not have in place the same legal protections that married couples or registered domestic partners do, but that doesn't mean they have no options or rights.
Shaffer & Associates is experienced in protecting the rights of formerly-cohabiting partners who were never legally married. As with our divorce practice, we enlist the services of business valuation professionals, appraisers, and others to get a comprehensive picture of the assets and debt involved in a given case. The law governing cohabitation may be different, but our level of preparation is equally meticulous.
Because California law regarding "community property" does not apply to unmarried couples, we need to take a different approach when working with clients who have not been married. Many of our clients are concerned that they've invested years of their lives with a partner only to be cast aside with nothing.
We work with clients to explain their legal rights to property acquired with a cohabiting partner, and their options for pursuing those rights. The assets at issue may be considerable, including:
We also work with clients who believe that an unmarried partner might wrongfully pursue assets to which he or she is not entitled. Whatever our client's position, we offer an honest, straightforward analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the case.
Couples may have signed a cohabitation agreement or a domestic partnership agreement that addresses some or all of their property division issues. In most cases, a California court will honor such agreements. If there is a dispute, such as over the value of certain property, whether the agreement includes certain property, or whether there was a breach of the agreement, it may be necessary to mediate or litigate. Insofar as possible, we will help our clients choose the least expensive and least stressful path to resolving their dispute. However, if a fair resolution cannot be reached by negotiation, we will not hesitate to fight for our clients' rights at trial.
For those couples without any formal agreement, protection may be available through California's civil (not family) courts. Unmarried couples who live together and have a romantic relationship for an extended period may be entitled to financial support and a property settlement via a "Marvin action." Any such right stems not from a common-law marriage, which California does not recognize, but from various legal theories, including breach of express or implied contract. The statute of limitations for a Marvin action depends on the legal theory or theories asserted in the claim. The attorneys of Shaffer & Associates can review the facts of your case with you and identify legal theories under which you might pursue a Marvin action.
The San Diego family law attorneys of Shaffer & Associates serve San Diego County and the surrounding communities, including Orange County, Riverside County and Los Angeles County. Contact Shaffer & Associates online or call (619) 230-1030 today to consult with us about the division of property from your relationship.