The decision to get married is becoming less common. Especially amongst millennials, marriage doesn’t seem to be a priority, and approximately 56 percent of millennials remain unmarried. That being said, couples may still choose to form long-term relationships, live together, and share property and assets without officially tying the knot. For these couples, understanding property rights in the event of a separation, divorce, or even the death of one party to the relationship is important. Here’s what you should know about property rights of unmarried couples in Massachusetts—

Ways to Have Property Rights Recognized

The first thing to know about property rights of unmarried couples is that the court does not recognize property rights of unmarried couples. The only ways to have your property rights recognized include: 

  • Get married. Getting married is one of the most straightforward ways to gain legal recognition of your union, including your right to property in the event of separation or the right to property in the event of death of the other party to the relationship. 
  • Form a domestic partnership or sign a cohabitation agreement. If marriage isn’t for you, the other ways to have your right to property recognized are to form a domestic partnership or to sign a cohabitation agreement. When you enter a domestic partnership, you and your partner will have all of the same rights as a married couple, including the right to equitable division of property. A cohabitation agreement is a legal arrangement that explains the rights of each party in the event of death or termination of the relationship for other causes. 

Does Massachusetts Recognize Common Law Marriage?

A common law marriage is a marriage that results from a couple living together (usually for a certain amount of time) and holding themselves out to be married. The state of Massachusetts does not recognize common law marriage unless the common law marriage involves a couple whose marriage was recognized in another state. This means that if you and your partner live together and want property rights recognized, you’ll need to pursue one of the formal legal arrangements listed above. 

Other Options When Separating from a Long-Term Partner

When separating from a long-term partner, there may be one other option for reclaiming property or money in the event of a separation: a claim for unjust enrichment. A claim for unjust enrichment can be brought when one party retains the property of another without good conscience of the principles of justice. 

Call the Law Office of Heather M. Ward Today 

If you are in a relationship and are unmarried and want to protect your property rights, it’s strongly recommended that you consider seeking some sort of legal protection, such as a cohabitation agreement. If you are separating from a romantic partner with whom you’ve been living and have questions about your property rights, the Law Office of Heather M. Ward can help. Reach out to our law office directly today at (617) 903-8955 or online to schedule your initial consultation and learn more.