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Can I sue my ex for division of property. Her attorney, surprisingly, has informed me that I don't have a case.

Appleton, WI |

My ex and I were never married but lived together for 5 years in WI, share a child, had a joint checking, and though the eyes of my employer were domestic partners. She owned the house we lived in. I put about $15,000 into refurbishing the house, along with anther $10,000 of items that we bought together. I also supported her through her bankruptcy. Paid for $25,000 dollars worth in vacations. She was also able to save about $60,000 into her 401k while we were together. The big question is do I have a case to sue her for the division of assets in her possession even though we were not married?

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Attorney answers 4


The short answer is no. You were never married so you have no interest in any of her property. Any money that you put toward the house, items, or vacations were voluntarily given. Even if you claim that she was supposed to pay you back these monies, she will just claim that they were gifts. I am assuming that nothing was ever in writing, so there are additional problems (such as the "Statute of Frauds"). Good luck.

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This cannot be a divorce in Wisconsin because you were never married.
You can try to sue under unjust enrichment, or breatch of contract. But that assumes these were not gifts. For if they were gifts then you had no expectation of repayment. That would be bad.

Bad would mean you have no case.

WALWORTH, ROCK and JEFFERSON County Divorce/Family Law Attorney - Atty Richard Missimer does answer questions on Avvo strictly to be helpful but these do not constitute legal advice. These answers do not establish an attorney/client relationship. If you would like my help and are within my practice area, contact me at (262)565-8200 for a FREE CONSULTATION.


Wisconsin's Family Code (Chapter 767) makes no provision for division of assets acquired during an informal living arrangement. Thus, in order for you to have a cause of action, it must be based in contract. Unless you have such contracts in writing, it would be a very difficult case to prove. Now, having informed you of this, you would be entitled to your share of any asset that is titled jointly, such as bank accounts, automobiles, etc. Your situation is one of the main reasons I advise my clients to never live together in a domestic situation without being married.

This answer is for informational purposes only. By answering this question, no attorney/client relationship is created. Although the legal information is accurate, it may not be appropriate for your situation. The best way to handle any legal problem is to seek the advice of an attorney.

Lee Alan Thompson

Lee Alan Thompson


Jeff, good advice you give in the last sentence. How many do you think follow it?


In addition to the above answers, you need to make certain you have complete documentation to back up your claims for reimbursement under an unjust enrichment theory. Wisconsin does not have common law marriage and many unmarried couples mistakenly believe that this applies in this State.

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