Will You Still Be My Valentine – In Litigation?

Valentine’s Day is approaching and it’s easy to get caught up in the romance of a relationship. However, one of the most dangerous things an unmarried couple can do is buy a home together without any type of written agreement for its disposition if the relationship sours. Unfortunately, Arizona does not recognize common-law marriage with one minor exception: that is when a couple moves to Arizona from a state that recognizes common law marriage. In addition, while many statutes govern disposition of a couple’s real estate in a divorce, there is little statutory guidance about a dispute over real estate for a unmarried couple.

A lawyer can argue that if one party paid more for the purchase of the property than the other the person that paid little or no money is holding the property in a constructive or resulting trust for the benefit of the party that paid the lion’s share. In addition, a party could force the sale of the real estate in a partition action. In both cases, the court will hold an evidentiary hearing or trial to determine the respective interests of each party. But litigating the issues will obviously cost a significant amount of attorney’s fees and costs and deplete the home’s equity.

Litigation can potentially be avoided or the costs decreased if the couple simply does some pre-planning and prepares a written agreement similar to a pre-marital agreement at the time they purchase the property.  That agreement, like a prenuptial agreement would detail what happens to the property when the couple breaks up. We have seen this situation happen too many times that we care to count. A similar dilemma happens when two or more family members purchase a property without any type of agreement. At Hymson Goldstein Pantiliat & Lohr, PLLC, we can help prepare these types of agreements at the time of purchase to help avoid litigation. However, if family members or a couple do not have the foresight to do an agreement like this when they buy the property, we also have skilled and trained litigators that can handle the resulting litigation.

At Hymson Goldstein Pantiliat & Lohr, PLLC, Our Business is Your Peace of Mind®.

Written by Attorney John Lohr, Jr., jll@hgplaw.com

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