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Property division and emotions of cohabitating unmarried couples similar to divorce

When a 30-year-old investment analyst and his girlfriend decided to buy a condo together, they did not envision a breakup five years into their future. Like many cohabitating couples who are not married, the investment analyst and his girlfriend did not have a conversation about financial expectations before making the real estate purchase. Even though the couple was not married, they still made a serious decision together and for that reason, the 30-year-old says the breakup felt like a divorce.

The 30-year-old investment banker is not alone in his experiential or emotional measurement. Many unmarried couples who cohabitate and split-up feel the process is similar to the property division and emotions of going through a divorce. The 30-year-old says the relationship felt like a marriage and the breakup felt like a divorce. According to the co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, cohabitating is a substantial emotional attachment and when it ceases, "it's going to hurt a lot." Couples who cohabitate do not necessarily avoid the pain of a marriage breakup.

Today cohabitating is so common that 60 percent of couples who marry live together first. Not only do couples who cohabitated and broke-up navigate divorce level emotions, some have to navigate divorce level property division. In relation to the amount of couples who live together before marriage, the number of court cases between former partners has increased and so has the number of cohabitation agreements.

When the investment analyst and his girlfriend bought their condo, they did not have the expectation of a future breakup and did not discuss what would happen. During the relationship, she paid most of the mortgage payments, and they split the condo association fees. Now, he lives in Boston and his former girlfriend is trying to find a renter.

Source: USA Today, "When unmarried couples split, complications follow," Sharon Jayson, 4/26/11

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