As more people live together, laws aren’t quite catching up with the societal shift. Most family laws only apply to married couples, so when unmarried couples do marriage-like things, such as buy houses, have children and have long-term relationships, this brings forth issues of rights, custodianship and ownership. However, laws have established that unmarried couples who live together still have rights, and a live-in girlfriend does have specific rights both in the relationship and after it ends.
Real Property Rights
In a community property state, if a couple pays a mortgage out of their joint earnings, both have an interest in the property regardless of whose name is actually on the title. If the couple breaks up, the girlfriend will have rights to a portion of the property. To ensure this interest, however, both names should be on the lease or property deed, or the couple can have a written agreement regarding their assets.
If the man is the only one on the deed and he made all the mortgage payments with his money, the girlfriend does not have any right to the property.
Right to Her Own Property
If a couple is living together and the boyfriend has large medical bills or has to move into a nursing home, the girlfriend’s property or finances cannot be garnished to pay the bills as long as the two have kept their bank accounts separate. If the couple has joint accounts, creditors can use those accounts as well as half of any jointly owned property.
Right to be Free of Abuse
The lack of a formal commitment has no effect in a domestic violence situation. A live-in girlfriend can’t be subjected to emotional, mental, physical or sexual abuse any more than if the couple were married. This is also true of children living in the home.
Medical and End of Life Rights
If the couple is living together and the boyfriend is in the hospital or dies, the girlfriend has very few rights. If he is in the hospital, she cannot make decisions regarding treatment or resuscitation unless he has signed a medical power of attorney; she also does not have the right to information about his condition without the notarized power of attorney. If he dies, she has no automatic right to any of his assets.