Unmarried Couples


When people live together, they sometimes acquire legal rights and obligations they might have not expected. These relationships are sometimes referred to as “domestic partnerships.” When these couples of the same or opposite sex break up, the partners should seek legal advice.

Property and Debts

The court tends to view couples living together as partners. When the partners separate, the court divides the assets and debts of the partners according to the “intent” of the partners to the extent intent can be ascertained. Sometimes partners have written agreements clearly expressing their intent. When no written agreement exists, the court looks to the behavior of the parties and to their oral and written statements in order to determine intent. For example, placing your partner’s name on the deed to the house you owned before the two of you met tends to indicate your intent to share that house with your partner. Letting your partner work for you in your business without pay suggests intent to share the business.

Intent can be very difficult to identify, but in the final analysis, the court will seek a result which is “fair,” in the estimation of the judge.

Children of Unmarried Parents

The rights relating to children of unmarried couples are essentially the same as the parental rights of married parents after paternity has been established. The first step is to establish paternity. The State of Oregon will help couples establish paternity at no cost, but a parent should seek immediate counsel from a private attorney about rights and legal strategy before going to the State of Oregon for services the state will provide. The state will not get involved in setting up a parenting plan or helping you strategize regarding custody.

If paternity has already been established, the rules regarding awards of custody, parenting time, and child support are the same as for married couples. Look in the section of this web site called FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) for information about those topics.

Spousal Support

Oregon law does not provide for awards of spousal support (alimony) for unmarried couples.

More Information About Unmarried Couples

For more information, visit http://www.osbar.org/public/legalinfo/1188.htm