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A Word from Scott Shaw: My Unmarried Partner Has Earned Millions During Our Relationship. Am I Entitled to Any of It?

Marriage is a serious legal thing. It changes the legal standing of two parties so that they largely become one economic unit. What he makes, is also hers, and what she makes is also his. There are some nuances and exceptions we don’t need to tackle here. In the end, if one party to a marriage abstains or sacrifices pursuing a career, that party still has a claim on the assets and earnings of their spouse. 

In the State of Georgia, what if you never married, but you abstained from or sacrificed your career for the benefit of your partner? A partner who perhaps made millions of dollars and that you devoted the best years of your life to. A partner who, without you, may never have made the money to begin with?

The Answer is No

No matter how long you stayed together, no matter how much you contributed, no matter how unfair it may seem, you’re entitled to none of it. 

With no legal marriage there can be no equitable distribution of property. No marriage means no alimony. And before you think there’s another option, common law marriage no longer exists in the State of Georgia. The money and the assets are your partners, not yours. Without being married, there is no single economic unit between two people. 

Protecting Yourself as an Unmarried Partner

What can you do to protect yourself if you desire to live as married and support your spouse’s career but not get legally married? 

The answers are:

  1. Have property put jointly in both of your names. This legally gives you an interest in property. Make sure you’re not just a beneficiary of the property but actual joint and several owners of the property. 
  2. Create contracts that give you a specific interest in a business or asset. Simple verbal promises, although they can support a contract, are hard to prove. And even if you prove them, they can be legally difficult to uphold under the law. Get it in writing. 
  3. Have an account set aside in only your name. It will be funded and continue to be funded to ensure that you are taken care of should the relationship end. 

Marriage as an Option 

The other solution is to get married. If you do not, you need to understand that in an unmarried relationship, absent actual legal ownership or binding and valid contracts, your partner can get away with saying, “that was very nice of you to help me” and go his or her way leaving you with nothing.

None of this covers children and child support and that’s a separate issue. There is no need for a legal marriage or a binding contract when determining custody of children or child support for children. 

Outside of the issue of custody and child support for children with your partner, if you want to share in the economic success of your union you either need to be legally married or cover yourself by obtaining legal ownership of assets in your name or joint names or by binding and enforceable contracts. There is no equitable distribution of property for unmarried partners. There is no alimony (or palimony as it came to be known in California for unmarried partners) in the State of Georgia without a legal marriage. 

We are Georgia divorce and child custody attorneys. This is all we have done since 1995. We can help. If you need help or have any questions, we would be happy to speak with you via email, text, or phone.