New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Discuss Property Laws and Home Ownership if Never Married

What happens to the house if we were never married?

In today’s world there are many couples who live together in the same home, share household expenses and have children.  When couples decide to live together, many are not thinking of the consequences if they split up.  What happens if the house is only in one person’s name?  What happens if the party not on the deed has been contributing to the mortgage for the last ten years? Is that person entitled to a share of the property?

In most circumstances, the answer is no.  Basically, since the parties were never married, the ownership is automatically determined by the names on the deed.  If one party’s name was never added to the deed, in the eyes of the law, that person is not entitled to a portion of the home.

However, if the party can prove he or she has been contributing to the mortgage for the last ten years, a court may determine that he or she is entitled to a percentage of the home or to be repaid for the principal he or she paid during those years. Proving this to a court will take a lot of time and money and can be avoided if the parties instead perfect the deed.

When a deed is originally drawn and there are two or more owners of the property, a person’s rights can be preserved.  Under Property Law, there are two ways to take ownership of property.  The first is called Joint tenancy.  This is a form of ownership where each person on the deed has an equal share in the property.  Upon death of one of the persons on the deed, the rest of the owners automatically take over the deceased person’s share.  Each person named on the deed has a right of survivorship.

The second is called Tenants-in-Common. As a tenant-in-common, each party has a distinct and separate share of the property.  Therefore, if a tenant-in-common dies, his share passes through his estate to his heirs.  The other tenants-in-common do not have any right to his share of the property unless he is a direct descendant or a beneficiary of the decedent’s will.

It seems odd to think of such a thing when two people are planning their lives together; however, this lack of forethought can prove to be very costly.  That’s why at Lyons & Associates, P.C., we are here to help you recognize these pitfalls and protect yourself in the future.  The attorneys at Lyons & Associates, we represent men and women throughout New Jersey who have unresolved family law matters, including real estate issues. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.

By: Chris Ann Wright