Unmarried couples (of both opposite-gender and same-gender pairings) can use the judicial system to resolve disputes when their relationships dissolve. However, the court will not apply the same standards to dissolution actions between unmarried and married couples.
The court will not make a spousal support-comparable award in the case of an unmarried couple. The only form of support that a court can order in the case of an unmarried couple is support for a joint child.
The court generally looks to the intent of the parties when dividing property of an unmarried couple. A written agreement is not necessary to prove intent. The court can look to the facts in each particular case to determine what the parties impliedly agreed to. Was the asset owned jointly? Did the parties intend to share in the value of the asset? Did both parties contribute to the acquisition of or increase in value to the asset? The court will then divide property based on what it finds to be the intent of the parties to the relationship.
Custody and Child Support
Either parent can start a civil proceeding to determine the issues of custody or support. The father of a child born out of wedlock will have the same rights as a father who is or was married to the mother once paternity is established. The court can then make a determination regarding custody and child support. If paternity has not been established, the parent with physical custody at the time of filing has “sole” legal custody until a court specifically orders otherwise. The court will then hold a hearing and proceed to make a determination on both custody and child support using the same criteria as is used in a divorce proceeding. See Custody and Child Support sections.