Who Gets the House and Cars When Unmarried Couples Break Up in California?

January 13, 2023

Many unmarried couples accrue shared property when cohabitating but do not consider how their shared property would be split up when they break up. It’s important to note that the law treats unmarried couples as separate individuals without responsibilities or rights when they separate. However, they may have rights to jointly owned property, such as homes or cars, accumulated during their relationship.

How Unmarried Couples in California Divide Property After Breaking Up

If only one party’s name is on the house or car, meaning that party has sole ownership of the property, that property remains theirs during a breakup, unless it can be proven there was a common intention the other party would be entitled to their share of the property.

This is not an easy task unless the couple has a cohabitation agreement, which is like a prenuptial agreement that states who owns which property and how the couple’s shared property will be divided when they break up, of there’s proof of both parties contributing to the property’s purchase, maintenance, and loan payments.

For cars or houses jointly owned by the couple, meaning both their names are on the deed, mortgage, or loan, there could be a dispute about who gets what when they separate. If the partners are joint tenants, each of them owns 100% of the car or house and will be entitled to their share of it should they choose to sell it. If one of them dies, the property will automatically pass to the other party since a share can’t be passed on via a will.

If the partners are tenants in common, each of them will keep a share of the house or car based on what they agreed upon or paid into when they purchased the property, which could be 75/25, 40/60, 50/50, etc. Each party continues owning their share, and a breakup will not alter the property rights.

Absent a cohabitation agreement, below are common options for dividing co-owned property when unmarried couples split up:

These are just some of the most common options for splitting property when unmarried couples break up. For best results, work with an experienced California family law attorney that handles cohabitation cases and can protect your rights.

Get In Touch With a California Family Law Attorney Now

If you have any concerns or questions about property rights when breaking up with your live-in partner, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the California family law attorneys at Bamieh & De Smeth for legal advice. If you and your partner have children, our lawyers can likewise help you with child custody and support arrangements after your breakup.

To learn more about your case and arrange your free case evaluation with our California family law attorney, fill out our online form or call 805-643-5555.