South Tampa Family Lawyer Assists Unmarried Couples
Many couples in Florida choose to build a life together–including living together, jointly owning property, and having children–without ever actually saying “I do.” For these couples, understanding their rights upon separation can be confusing. Are unmarried couples governed by the same laws when separating as are divorcing couples?
Common Law Marriage
Common law marriages, in which a couple is considered married and is subject to the same laws as other married couples by virtue of holding themselves out to be married, are not issued in Florida. While Florida does not allow common law marriages to be formed within its borders, it will recognize common law marriages from other jurisdictions (states that currently allow common laws include Colorado, Alabama, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and a handful of others).
Child Custody and Child Support in Florida
Even without a marriage or a common law marriage, if you are a parent, you have legal parental rights, including the right to seek custody of your child. For fathers who are unmarried to their child’s mother at the time of birth, it is important that paternity is established. Paternity can be established by signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form or by a court order.
Once paternity is established, parents should work together to form a parenting plan that outlines time sharing of the child, who has the ability to make decisions regarding the child, and how disputes will be resolved. If parents cannot come to an agreement on how to share custody, the court will make the decision on the parents’ behalf. The non-custodial parent will also be responsible for child support.
Couples who live together and build a life together but do not get married do not have the same rights to alimony as do married couples in the state of Florida. In fact, the only way that you may be able to secure an alimony payment upon separation from your partner is in the event that you and your partner formed a valid cohabitation agreement which included an agreement regarding the payment of spousal support. Case law in Florida holds that a party may able to seek alimony if there is a valid and lawful consideration regarding an agreement between the couple.
Again, those couples who are not married and who are separating have no statutory rights to the property of their partner. As such, it is important that you and your partner form a property division agreement during the course of your relationship together. If you are separating, title alone will control who gets what. This means that, for example, if the title of your home is in your partner’s name, even if you contributed to the purchase, your partner is entitled to the property.
Work with an Experienced Tampa Family Law Attorney
Working with an experienced family law attorney who can assist you and your partner in forming a cohabitation agreement is ideal. If you and your partner are separating, our family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark G. Rodriguez, P.A. can help you to understand your rights. Reach out to us now for more information.