Unmarried couple’s assets could be split equally after breakup

In some states at least, if you act like you’re married for long enough, the legal system might treat you as married when you break up.

For example, an unmarried couple in Alaska broke up after 12 years and two children. The couple had maintained separate bank accounts the whole time, but they made many joint purchases while raising their children in the same home.

When the man sought custody of the children, the woman responded by seeking a court order that their property be divided 50-50.

The man argued that this was unfair because he had purchased the house in his name only, paid most of the bills, and filed his taxes separately each year.

But the Alaska Supreme Court disagreed. It said that while this was true, the couple had also signed a health insurance domestic partnership affidavit to obtain coverage, looked for housing together, referred to each other as husband and wife in public, and even said they were married on paperwork when they jointly purchased a car.

Because the pair had formed a domestic partnership with the intent to “share in the fruits of their relationship” as though they were married, the court said, their property should be equally divided as though they were married as well.