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Are you and your partner in a committed, long-term relationship, but are you still not ready to get married? Perhaps you’ve been divorced before and you don’t want to go through it again, or maybe you just don’t see the point in getting married—it can be expensive—if you don’t have to. Some couples stay together for decades and are as connected as married couples, though they never officially tie the knot in Arizona.

If you decide to do this, though, you have to be conscious that the relationship could end. Just as half of all marriages end in divorce, couples split up after dating for years.

The problem is that you or your partner could become dependent on the relationship but not have any rights. For example, perhaps your partner supports you so you don’t have to work. He or she also buys everything—the house, the car, etc. It’s been this way for years, and you don’t expect it to end.

If it does, though, it puts you in a tough spot. You may not have any rights to that house, car, retirement fund, bank account, or anything else—as a spouse would in a divorce.

To fix this, you may want to use a domestic partner agreement. In a lot of ways, this is just like a prenuptial agreement. It stipulates what is going to be done with assets, property and income if the two of you break up. Even if you don’t think that you will, having this in place can be nice so that you don’t suddenly lose everything in a breakup.

It’s crucial for unmarried couples to understand the unique position they may be in and what legal options they can use.

Source: US News, “11 Financial Documents Unmarried Couples Should Know About,” Teresa Mears, accessed Oct. 22, 2015

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