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How do you divide property after an unmarried relationship ends?

If a Pennsylvania couple is married and purchases a home together, if the relationship ends in divorce, family law will govern the process of dividing the home so that both sides of the marriage are treated fairly. However, if the couple is not married and purchase a home together, how is the house divided?

The answer to this question depends on the manner by which the home was purchased. For example, if two individuals in a relationship purchase a home jointly, as joint tenants or tenants-in-common, then the process of dividing the property will be very straightforward. In most cases it will be divided half-and-half. However, if one or the other person in the relationship purchased the home on his or her own, and the other partner in the relationship contributed significantly to paying for the mortgage and maintaining the home, a legal battle could ensue as to who owns what.

In most situations, the party that owns the home — the person in whose name the mortgage and deed to the home are — will be the one who gets to maintain full ownership of the residence. However, if the other person can show that there was the common intention that the property would be shared, then he or she may be entitled to part ownership of the residence when the couple break up. Proving common intention can be difficult, but if there is written proof, or financial records show that both parties invested in the home's purchase price, maintenance and mortgage payments, this could be sufficient evidence of common intention.

If you are part of an unmarried couple in Pennsylvania, and you believe that you are entitled to a share of the home you live in, you may wish to speak with an attorney about the matter. Even though you are not married, you may still be entitled to part ownership of your residence.

Source: FindLaw, "Unmarried Couples and Property - Basics," accessed Feb. 26, 2016

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