Will the Time I Spent Cohabitating with my Spouse Prior to Marriage Affect my Divorce?
While the number of individuals waiting to get married increases, so does the number of people cohabitating with a partner. Some couples will live together for years prior to engaging in a legally binding marriage ceremony. However, during this cohabitation time, they may have acquired a home, vehicles, assets, accrued money in retirement and savings; all of which are items commonly disputed in a divorce. However, one of the first things a court will do is note the date of marriage, as well as the date of separation, or filing for dissolution of marriage. The time between these two dates is what the court will look to, to consider the items in dispute, and consider as marital property. If you cohabitated with a partner, that you eventually married, and now find yourself going through the divorce process, it is important to know your rights and employ the experience of a knowledgeable Florida Divorce Attorney.
There are two instances where the duration of your marriage comes under strict consideration by the court: equitable distribution and alimony. Within an alimony award there are certain presumptions dependent upon the length of a marriage. For instance, a short term marriage is one deemed to have lasted less than 7 years. A moderate term marriage is one with a duration more than years but less than 17. Finally, a long term marriage is one where the marriage has a duration of over 17 years. With the longevity of your marriage comes certain presumptions. For instance, if you were involved in a short term marriage, your likelihood of receiving permanent alimony is slim, requiring you to display “exceptional circumstances.” In contrast, if you were involved in a long term marriage, permanent alimony may be awarded if the court finds it simply appropriate. Therefore, the length of your marriage can impact your financial situation significantly after your divorce. If you were cohabitating with your partner for 10 years and then proceeded to engage in a marriage ceremony and now find yourself divorcing 7 years later, the court will only recognize your marriage as being short term. When you may have been living as a married couple for what is considered long term. This can be a significant hurdle to overcome in terms of your need for alimony.
Further, the duration of your marriage is also important in determining an equitable distribution award. When discussing equitable distribution, it is crucial to determine what is considered marital property vs non marital property. For the most part, the court considers items acquired during the time of the marriage to be deemed marital property subject to equitable distribution. Therefore, if you and your spouse cohabitated prior to marriage and bought a second property in your spouse’s name alone, this would be considered non marital property as it was done outside of the marriage time. However, it is important to bring these items to your Florida Divorce Attorney’s attention. We may be able to find ways to qualify this property as marital if joint funds were spent on the upkeep of certain items or your name was added to the title later on.
However, one of the most discussed issues is the division of a retirement plan of a spouse. This becomes especially difficult if the couple was cohabitating and in a long term relationship prior to the marriage while the funds for the retirement account were accruing. However, you may have no claim to some of this money as you are only entitled to half of a retirement plan for the duration of your marriage. Discuss this significant issues with your Florida Divorce Attorney, we may be able to negotiate other items that may replace this loss of financial security that you may have built with your partner.
Cohabitating before marriage is common, however, it does remove some benefits that marriage brings. If you cohabited and were in a long term relationship prior to entering into the formal marriage with your partner, you will want to employ an experienced Florida Divorce Attorney to walk you through this process and protect your rights.
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