At the Boca Raton Law Offices of Richard B. Barkin, one of the issues our family law attorneys encounter involves unmarried couples who have lived together for some time and acquired assets and property together, yet now wish to terminate their relationship.
Common law marriage was abolished in Florida in 1968. For a marriage to be valid after that date, it must be formalized in accordance with state law provisions. Merely cohabitating (living together) and holding yourselves out as husband and wife does not create a valid marriage. State law also holds that same-sex marriages, even those legally established in another jurisdiction, are not recognized under Florida law.
Since there is no marriage, the laws of divorce or dissolution of marriage do not apply to a termination of the relationship. The lack of a legal marriage means there is no legal duty to support each other financially, and therefore no basis for ordering anything like alimony. Also, property acquired together is not subject to an equitable distribution by a family court.
What does happen to jointly-acquired property? With respect to real property (land), the law does provide a process known as partition. A partition action may be filed by any person who owns land with another as joint tenants, tenants in common, coparceners (people who inherited property together), or others interested in the land to be divided.
Once the court has determined the rights and interests of the parties and ordered a partition of the property accordingly, the court then appoints a three-member panel of commissioners to make the partition. This commission may employ a surveyor if necessary to accurately determine how the land is to be divided. Any objections to the commissioners’ report are heard in court, and after a hearing the court will make a final judgment as to the property, vesting title to each owner in the particular parcels of land allotted to them.
If it is determined that it is not possible to divide the property without prejudicing the rights of the owners, the court may appoint a special magistrate or the court clerk to sell the property privately or at auction and divide the proceeds among the original owners.
The partition statute can apply to personal property as well. Whether the court will order partition of personal property depends on the nature of the property, and whether it is deemed suitable for the partition law.
If you own land together with another in Palm Beach or Broward County, or otherwise wish to terminate a long-term relationship and are unsure what will become of certain real or personal property, contact the experienced family law attorneys in the Law Offices of Richard B. Barkin for advice and representation.