People married to each other have certain rights by virtue of their legal marriage, including but not limited to property rights (dower), access to healthcare records, parenting rights, and tax benefits.
Unmarried couples in Ohio, whether they are same-sex or opposite sex, must jump through many hoops to plan for their unions and unfortunately, the termination of their unions.
The team at Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC can assist you in jumping through those hoops and planning for your committed relationships, whether or not there are children involved.
Unmarried partners should have powers of attorney to permit each other to have access to financial accounts, to give authority over property and insurance matters, to collect funds due, to prepare applications for benefits and for other necessary actions if one partner becomes ill or unable to do so on his or her own.
Partners should also have durable powers of attorney for healthcare and living wills so that the other partner can make their wishes known, instruct medical professionals regarding DNA orders, gain access to records, and even have visiting rights in a healthcare facility.
Partners should make their wishes for property distribution in case of death in a written Will, or Revocable Trust, because statutes of descent and distribution do not apply to unmarried cohabitants. Beneficiary designations on pensions and 401(k)s, as well as life insurance policies are also a must.
Cohabitation Agreements are becoming more common for unmarried couples. Like Antenuptial Agreements, they detail the financial and parenting aspects of the relationship: how property is to be held, how each partner is to contribute to acquiring assets, what each is bringing to the relationship, how responsibilities are to be divided, tax issues, and so forth. They also provide instruction as to the parties’ intent in case of death of a partner or termination of the relationship, including distribution of real estate, personal property, and bank accounts; responsibility for debts; child custody and visitation; guardianship of the children; child support and responsibility for children; support between the partners; etc.
Like married couples, unmarried partners sometimes decide to terminate their committed relationships. Unlike married couples, however, domestic relations courts in Ohio cannot assist them in achieving a fair distribution of economic gains and losses that occurred by virtue of their relationship or the end of it.
Assuming that there is not a Cohabitation Agreement to be followed in achieving an agreement to dissolve the union, to divide real estate owned by both partners a Partition Action must be brought in common pleas court; a Replevin Action must be brought in County or Municipal Court if under a certain sum or in Common Pleas Court if over that amount; and child issues must be brought to Juvenile Court (unless the domestic relations court handles all issues between biological parents, whether married or not, as occurs in Summit County, Ohio – see the Page entitled Parenting https://www.grahamhurdlaw.com/parenting/). The team at Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC is familiar with each of these actions and can advise you on the appropriate course of action. All legal custody issues between a parent (natural or adopted) and a non-parent must be brought to Juvenile Court.
A biological parent can voluntarily relinquish sole custody and enter into a joint legal custody arrangement with his/her partner to share the care, custody, and control of his or her child through a valid shared-custody agreement. This is because a parent can grant custody rights to a non-parent, and that contract is enforceable so long as the court determines the shared legal custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
The Ohio Supreme Court strongly encourages parties to have such an agreement as early as possible. “In this regard, … we also observe that the best way to safeguard both a parent’s and a nonparent’s rights with respect to children is to agree in writing as to how custody is to be shared, the manner in which it is shared, and the degree to which it may be revocable or permanent, or to apply to a juvenile court for an order under R.C. 2151.23(A)(2) establishing the scope of the legal custody that the parent desires to share, or both. Bonfield, 97 Ohio St.3d 387, 2002-Ohio-6660, 780 N.E.2d 241, ¶ 9.”
‘Parenthood in our complex society comprises much more than biological ties, and litigants increasingly are asking courts to address issues that involve delicate balances between traditional expectations and current realities.’ N.A.H. v. S.L.S. (Colo.2000), 9 P.3d 354, 359.”
The Family Law team at Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC keeps up-to-date on this rapidly changing area of the law and Melissa Graham-Hurd has taken an active role in attempting to effect change so that all children are treated the same by Ohio’s courts, no matter what the marital status of their parents may have been. Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC can serve the needs of your family, no matter what its makeup.
THIS INFORMATION IS INTENDED TO BE A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE ISSUES CONCERNING NEVER MARRIED PARTNERS AND IS NOT INTENDED AS LEGAL ADVICE ON YOUR PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCES. IT IS ONLY INTENDED TO ASSIST YOU IN UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS.
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