Premarital Cohabitation

Many divorcing couples lived together for a period of time before their formal marriage. Is property acquired during cohabitation subject to division? If not, can the court at least consider contributions made during cohabitation as factors in dividing assets acquired during the marriage?

Over the past century, there has been a steady increase in the number of people who cohabit together in a romantic relationship without benefit of marriage. When the parties to such a relationship never marry, their rights upon termination of the relationship are determined under the law of cohabitantsí rights.

Many cohabiting parties, however, do marry at some point in their relationship. To state the same point from the opposite direction, many married persons cohabit together for a short or long period of time before their formal marriage. When the parties are married at the end of their relationship, their property rights are clearly determined by the law of equitable distribution. When equitable distribution law applies, however, what consideration should be given to the period of premarital cohabitation? There is no clear consensus in the case law.

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