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Legal Rights for Same Sex Couples or Couples of Opposite Sex Who Have Lived Together Without Benefit of Marriage

The laws in the State of Michigan do not recognize either common law marriage or commitment ceremonies as same sex couples are not allowed to legally marry in Michigan. The question arises as to what happens when either same sex couples or heterosexual couples, who have lived together and co-mingled property without being marriage, breakup. I have handled both types of situations in my practice.

Even though they are not divorce actions and are not part of the family court, in certain situations there are legal remedies. I have had cases where people have co-mingled assets, have shared investments and have purchased real estate together. I have had other cases where there have been promises made but not kept. In these situations, there may be an action, based upon fraud or unjust enrichments, which are tort actions. They are based upon promises that are not kept or based upon situations where one person has invested a lot of money into real estate and the other person is saying, “forget it – you are entitled to little or nothing”.

As actions in tort for damages, based upon the lost of investment, loss of the use of funds, or unjust enrichment to the other party, a civil action can be filed and even a jury demand can be utilized which is unavailable in a divorce or other family law action. These cases go to the general docket and are not part of the family court.

In each of these cases, I have been able to successfully resolve them using one-person mediation, in one instance, with success. In the other instance, we went through facilitative mediation in the Circuit Court where a three-person mediation panel gave an award of monetary damages to my client who was suing the other party based upon fraud and unjust enrichment. These damages were then used as a basis for a settlement without the need to go to trial. These cases are unusual and require certain elements. I believe it is necessary that there be a long-term relationship. There must be investments made together or some type of promises which one party has relied on to his or her detriment. There must be some monetary losses which can be proven in a court of law that happened because of either a reliance on the other party or a reliance on the relationship. These are cases that must be handled on a case-by-case basis. It is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in family law and also understands some of the basic premises of fraud and unjust enrichment and/or breach of contract. These are interesting and unusual cases, and if you fall into any of these situations, it is important that you contact an attorney to discuss what remedies you might have, if any.

Here at Family Law of Michigan, we are experienced, not only in family law, but in these unusual fraud and unjust enrichment cases based upon same sex living arrangements or couples who have lived together without benefit of marriage.