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No Ring – No Rights

Married…But Single

by Jovan Tahale

October 25, 2018

When my friend moved out of her apartment to move in with her boyfriend, I knew she was headed for trouble.  Six months after she moved in with him, she came home unexpectedly from work and caught him in a very indiscreet position with another woman.  He asked her to move and she had nowhere to go.  She ended up in a shelter because she was too proud to go to friends for help.  Later, she came to the conclusion that she set herself up for disaster, because her name wasn’t on the apartment lease.  The lesson she learned was that when a couple is living together and not married, both names should be on the lease or the mortgage.  Here are more examples of the pitfalls of rooming together without the benefit of marriage.

  • Tom and Cheryl were involved three years when they decided to move in together. The agreement was that they would split all the bills down the middle, and live in Tom’s place because it was larger.  This agreement worked fine, until Cheryl lost her job seven months later, and was unable to find work.  After five months of footing all the bills, Tom asked Cheryl to move out of the apartment, because he wanted to end the relationship.  When she refused, he changed the locks on the door while she was out, and wouldn’t let her back in.  Cheryl called the police, and all they could do was accompany her back to the apartment to get her belongings because Tom’s name was the only one on the lease.  The police told her that since they weren’t married, there was nothing they could do, because she had no legal rights to the apartment.


  • Beth and Chuck had been dating four years when they decided to buy a home together. The plan was to marry after Chuck’s divorce became final.  Though Betty shared the house payments, Chuck’s name was the only name on the mortgage because of her bad credit record.  Two years after they moved together, Chuck’s divorce had still not been finalized when he sat Beth down and told her he decided to reconcile with his wife because of his kids.  He informed her that she would have to move the next day, because his wife was moving in.  Beth had no legal grounds to stand on because her name was on nothing pertaining to the house.  She refused to leave and ended up having to be escorted from the home by the police.


  • Bob and Chris had been together five years when they decided to pool their money and buy a condo together. Chris had filed bankruptcy before, so they decided to put the condo in Bob’s name.  When Chris’ mother warned her against the action, she told her mother that she trusted Bob completely, and she knew he would be fair to her if anything happened between them.  Five years later, Bob announced to Chris that they would have to move because their place had gone into foreclosure.  He confessed that he had not been paying the mortgage, because of a gambling problem.  She also learned that he had refinanced the condo a few times, and hadn’t shared the equity he’d gotten out of it.  Because her name wasn’t on anything, he was able to operate autonomously, and she was left out in the cold.

These stories are illustrative of the severe challenge singles face when they enter into financial bonds with no legal leg to stand on.  Studies show that many singles today who are financially stable are opting to live together rather than marry.  Some see it as a way to protect their bank accounts and assets against the possibility of divorce.

After one woman ended up having to pay her ex-husband alimony, she vowed to never marry again, and moved in with her boyfriend, who later moved out and left her to pay rent she couldn’t afford.

Marriage does not guarantee happiness, but it does guarantee certain rights when a couple makes the decision to legalize their relationship.  However, if a couple decides not to marry, but to live together, they should have a clear understanding of the laws in their state, as it relates to common law relationships, and what rights they have, if any.

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