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Illinois Supreme Court decision affects unmarried couples

For many reasons, some Illinois couples that are involved in a relationship choose not to move forward with a legal marriage. In certain instances, they might have children. In others, they are living together and holding out as a married couple, but have not actually gotten married. Regardless of the situation, if the couple decides to end their relationship, a common dispute that arises in such a circumstance is property division. Understanding the various factors involved in this issue is key for those who are not married, but are in a marriage-like relationship, children or not.

In 1979, the Illinois Supreme Court had decided that common law marriage would not be recognized in the state, in part because it wanted to discourage such relationships with children and a failure to marry. Recently, it made another ruling on the issue. The ruling stemmed from a same-sex couple wherein one partner, who was a judge in Cook County, tried to receive a portion of her former partner's medical practice, among other properties. The court accepted that societal beliefs regarding marriage and children had changed, but it decided that those who were not married will not be able to seek property that legally belonged to the other if the relationship ended.

While the morality that was the basis of the original ruling in 1979 was downplayed, the main issues that sparked the decision remain reasonable in the eyes of the court. Since same-sex couples can now marry, the decision not to do so is up the couple. In the case in question, the couple began living together in 1981. They were together for 25 years, raising three children. Once they parted ways, there was a dispute over various properties. The decision was based on established law in the state regarding common law relationships.

Those in Illinois who are in a relationship but have not gotten married need to know the facts about family legal issues such as as property division for unmarried couples. This is true whether it is a same-sex relationship or an opposite-sex relationship. When there are concerns about this, speaking to a legal professional who is experienced in family law can help with determining how to move forward.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Illinois Supreme Court rejects property division for unmarried couples," Robert McCoppin, Aug. 20, 2016

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