So you and your boy/girlfriend have been together for years, perhaps decades and became homeowners together but never married . . . what happens when the relationship ends? Ideally the two of you can resolve it amicably between yourselves and either agree to sell the property and split the proceeds or one can buy the other out. If that is not going to happen, as the case often is with break-ups, then you may need the Court to intervene.
In New Jersey unmarried cohabitating couples who engaged in a joint venture to purchase real property are entitled to seek a “partition” of that property when the joint venture ends – in other words, when you two break-up.
Partition means the Court can force the sale of the property and order that the proceeds be split between the parties. Interestingly, both parties’ names do not need to be on the deed and/or mortgage to seek a partition action. There are many reasons why one party may not have their name on the deed or mortgage. It could have to do with credit scores, interest rates or a variety of other reasons. So do not let the fact that your name is not on the deed or mortgage dissuade you from filing a partition action.
Further, there is no requirement that a cohabitating couple have a formal contract regarding the property. Courts will presume that the parties intended to deal fairly with each other. They will look to see who contributed towards the purchase and maintenance of the home when deciding how to partition the property. Thus, the fact that the purchase was only under one cohabitant’s name is irrelevant.
Oftentimes there are other issues involved with breaking up with a longtime companion such as children and other jointly held property. Fortunately, since the partition of the home arose out of a “family-type” situation all of these issues can be handled in Family Court by an experienced family attorney. If you are an unmarried homeowner breaking up, contact Kevin J. Murphy, Esq., at 856-428-8334, for a consultation.