Q: I’ve been living with someone for ten years,
and now we’re splitting up. Can we use a divorce court to divide our assets and
debts, even though we aren’t married?
If you are not married, Ohio law does not give you the right to stand in front
of a court and request an equal or equitable division of your property. The
legislature has passed laws governing equitable and equal division of separate
and joint property for married couples, but no such statute governs how to
determine what is equitable when dividing property between co-habitants.
Q: Since we’ve lived together for so long,
might we be considered to have a common law marriage?
Common law marriage is no longer recognized in Ohio. Ohio law recognizes common
law marriage only if it occurred before October 10, 1991 and was not ended by
death, divorce, dissolution of marriage or annulment. However, Ohio will
recognize a common law marriage if it was proper under the laws of another
state for people who are now meeting all of Ohio’s residency requirements.
Q: Is there a way we can divide our real
property, even though we were never married?
Most people hold their real property as “tenants in common” (meaning that they
own it together) or as “tenants with the right of survivorship” (meaning,
generally, that they own it jointly, and the entire property passes to one of
them on the death of the other person). If you own property jointly as tenants
in common, then one of you may wish to buy out the other. However, if you do
not wish to do this or cannot agree on the price, you can file a civil action
in a civil common pleas court. This is called a “partition action.” The court will
consider the property appraisals and the interests of both parties, and decide
who should have the property by the partition action. A partition action can be
brought if you cannot end your relationship by selling or transferring your interest
in the property to each other or to a third party. Also, if the property is not
paid for, your interest can be lost, either through the partition action or
through a foreclosure action.
Q: The person I’ve lived with for ten years
will not return my personal property. Does Ohio law address this issue even
though we’re not married?
If the other party is holding your personal property and will not release it,
you can bring suit in municipal court requesting the return of your personal
property. You must, however, be able to prove the suit by evidence such as
other witnesses who know you owned the property, receipts for purchase,
cancelled checks and such other evidence to show that it is your personal
Q: Can I sue my partner if she reneged on her promise
to marry me?
One co-habitant cannot sue another based only on the promise to marry. If you have
lost property or have transferred property based on that promise, you can try to
get the value of the property or the property back, but you cannot claim any
“damages” (compensation for the injury your partner caused you) based on the
Q: Does Ohio have a Defense of Marriage Act?
Ohio’s Defense of Marriage Act was passed on Nov. 2, 2005. This act effectively
changed Ohio’s constitution to define marriage as a contract between one man
and one woman. Article XV, paragraph 11 of Ohio’s constitution says that “the state
and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for
relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design,
qualities, significance or affect of marriage.”
“Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Dayton attorney
James R. Kirkland of Kirkland & Sommers, Co., L.P.A. Articles appearing in
this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before
applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to
seek advice from an attorney.
Labels: divorce, marriage, property