Time was....and sometimes still is....when couples proclaimed that they "didn't need that piece of paper" (marriage license) to prove to the world that they were a couple. They could function as what society would call a "family" with a Mom..a Dad and children...no wedding rings necessary to be the "tie that binds them". How well we know...no one gets married to get divorced..buys a house to lose it in foreclosure....Life changes, people change...and with changes can come complications...legal, financial and in real estate.
When one member of the couple decides that the relationship is no longer viable...and the other does not agree....the jointly owned real estate often without the benefit of any legal agreement, becomes a far bigger problem than it is in any divorce.
Now there are no "rules" , no case precedent for who gets what...who gets to stay, who buys out who...both parties are just stuck. While we can all look back and say "Why would anyone do that ?" hindsight is 20/20 for everyone and being judgemental does not help ths situation. Not everyone deals in the "same reality" and one may imagine that staying together at any cost ...financial and emotional is the best thing to do while the other wants to start a new life free of the relationship. What about that jointly owned house ? No one can require either to sell....to buy out....to vacate...and so the legal battle begins...which will take far longer than a divorce most probably and can be as if not more costly in legal fees. The battle takes a fiinancial and emotional toll on everyone involved.
If you or anyone you know is considering buying a house as a couple....and is not married, urge them to seek the advice of legal counsel before the purchase. Life happens...and the relationship may not be the "happily ever after" once envisioned. Whether thru disagreement, death...career relocation....change can happen and it is best to take the steps in advance should changes in the living arrangement change.
This has been a public service post brought to you courtesy of Sally K. & David L. Hanson, Broker Associates with Keller Williams Realty honored to be of service for all things real estate in southeastern Wisconsin.