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What Legal Obligations Does a Couple Have While Living Together?

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  • Written By: Rhonda Rivera
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Some legal obligations a couple have while living together are the obligations to report each other’s income, testify against one another, and have a fair chance at renting or purchasing housing. Reporting each other’s income when applying for loans or grants is important and usually required by law, so that financial institutions can make an informed decision when deciding whether to grant the request. Some couples believe they are not required to testify against one another if a partner does something illegal, but this is not true. In addition, some countries outlaw discrimination against unmarried couples. Sometimes couples living together are also required to support one another after they end the relationship.

When living together and no longer depending on their parents financially, couples must usually take each other’s income into consideration when applying for loans and grants. For example, they might no longer qualify for certain grants because their combined income is greater than the income limit set for those grants. It is illegal to lie about a relationship’s status to get around a financial institution's qualifications for loans and grants. In general, this problem may not matter if a couple lives together but still depends on family members to support them.

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One widely regarded myth is that couples, especially married couples, cannot appear in court to act as witness for the prosecution against his or her significant other. In some countries, a couple can be legally obligated to testify for or against each other if such a situation arises. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, protect married couples from having to testify against one another in some cases. Generally, no matter the country, couples can be forced to testify for or against one another if the case involves violence against each other or violence or sexual relations with a minor.

As cohabitation without marriage becomes more popular around the world, laws protecting unmarried couples become more abundant. Depending on their jurisdiction, a couple may be legally obligated to have a fair chance at acquiring housing. Landlords cannot legally discriminate based on a couple’s lack of marriage certificate. Still, in some jurisdictions, landlords are free to request that only married couples apply for housing due to religious or personal beliefs.

In many places, if a couple is married and living together, they are legally obligated to support each other even if the relationship dissolves. For example, a stay-at-home mother who divorces her husband will usually receive monthly payments to support the couple’s children and herself. Sometimes it is the woman who must support the man, because she made more money than him.

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Reminiscence
Post 2

@pollick, I get where you're coming from, but this is a different generation we're talking about. The idea of roommates with benefits is much more appealing these days. Some young couples start living together because they don't want to have all those legal obligations that go with marriage. If the relationship goes bad, they can just go their own separate ways. No harm, no foul.

Personally, I don't think I could live with a person unless it looked like marriage was in the cards. I'd have to know that person was just as much into the relationship as I was.

pollick
Post 1

Personally, I think there are more moral and ethical obligations between an unmarried couple than legal ones. They're essentially roommates with benefits, so there is a matter of paying rent and other mutual living expenses. But after that, it's a matter of behaving in a way that won't hurt the other person emotionally or financially or physically.

I'm all for living together as a trial run for a deeper commitment like marriage, but I think some young couples just aren't ready to share the same space yet. Living together should be something to consider after the relationship has had time to gel a little. It shouldn't be done just for economic convenience or as a first "grown-up" act.

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