Not every couple out there that breaks up does so using divorce. There are plenty of couples that live together, but never got married. Even without marriage, the couple still might have plenty of property they need to divide once they split. For non-married couples looking to divide property in Ohio, here are some answers.

The first thing non-married couples need to know is that they cannot use a divorce court to divide property when splitting up after a lengthy relationship. There are laws and statutes in Ohio that govern the division of property for married couples, but none that cover the division of property for cohabitants.

Longtime cohabitants are also not recognized as common law spouses. This was outlawed in Ohio on October 10, 1991. Any couple that was living together, but not married prior to that date is considered to be married under common law as they were grandfathered into the new law. The relationship is recognized if it did not end via divorce, death, annulment or dissolution of marriage.

In order to divide property equally for a non-married couple, one of the members of the couple can file a partition action in civil common pleas court. Ohio recognizes cohabitants in Ohio are viewed as tenants in common, which means they own property commonly if they live together. This also means that if one person dies, the property commonly owned goes to the surviving spouse.

Should a cohabitating couple decide to end their relationship, but one person does not return the personal property of the other, the victim can file a lawsuit in municipal court that requests the return of the personal property. The catch here is that you must be able to provide witnesses who can testify that you owned the personal property and the other person did not. You can also provide receipts of purchase, cancelled checks and other documents to prove ownership.

An experienced divorce lawyer can answer all of your questions regarding complex property division, including non-marital property, in the state of Ohio.

Source: Ohio State Bar Association, "Ohio Law Provides Ways for Non-Marital Households to Divide Property," accessed Feb. 17, 2017

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