Not every property division occurs within the context of a divorced couple. Unmarried cohabitating couples are becoming ever more common. The problem for unmarried couples is that there is no overarching agreement that defines their property rights. This may seem like a silly problem, after all, you decided to live with this person because on some level you trust them. However, the problem with breakups is that no one plans to do them. This is why divorces and breakups can get messy.
Without an overarching agreement to determine property division, how do unmarried couples settle these disputes? This all depends upon the nature of the breakup. If it was somewhat civil and amicable, then the couple may peaceably divide their property. However, if it was acrimonious, then it is possible they face months or years of court battles over property ownership. Without a defining agreement, it is left to the parties or the courts to sort out the mess, and that can get expensive very quickly.
A way to avoid this problem is by drafting a cohabitation agreement. This is a voluntary contract entered into by both partners. This agreement can clearly lay out the rules to determine property ownership, support, and division of real property, debts and rights of surviving partners. This may seem like a counterintuitive move, almost as if you are inviting discord into the relationship, but it is better to be prepared and never need it than to need it and not have it. This is a personal matter that can only be settled between a couple.
If you are currently going through a breakup with a former cohabitating partner, then you might want to consider speaking to a family law attorney. Just because you were never married does not mean you surrender all rights to your jointly acquired property. Take a moment to breathe and remain patient because this process can and does end, it just takes time.