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I've been in a relationship for 20 years. We are now separating. We aren't married.

Dayton, OH |

We have accumulated two houses and household goods over the years. One house deed is in her name exclusively and the other is in both are names. She is the only one on both mortgages. She has changed the locks and left me with nothing. What can i do to make this a more even split?

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Attorney answers 4


This won't be a divorce question since Ohio eliminated common law marriage 22 years ago - unless you happened to live for a time in a state that did still recognize common law marriage during the time you lived there, and you met the requirements in that jurisdiction for a common law marriage, and would also be able to file there for divorce even though you currently live here. That being said, the house that has your name on it she can't keep you out of. Call another locksmith and have the locks rechanged and / or consider finding a peaceful and calm way to break into your own house, with a copy of the deed in case the police are called. The one that's in her name I can't think of how you'd have a right to possession. Regarding a division of property, anything purchased together would be handled as a contract between two individuals and any documentation as to how you two discussed handling it, if no actual written agreement, would be helpful, as would any receipts or credit card statements showing which items you purchased for individual use with your individual funds. You're better off (in my opinion) scheduling a consult with an attorney who does contracts and real estate than who does family law, unless you can find someone who handles specifically unmarried partners' property issues. Good luck to you.

For informational purposes only; not intended to, and does not, constitute legal advice or a legal opinion.

Deborah Zaccaro Hoffman

Deborah Zaccaro Hoffman


There's also a nifty little thing called a writ of replevin that is usually requested from the municipal court where the property is located, asking the court for an order to return property owned by you that someone else is holding. A Dayton-area attorney could probably give you more specifics on the procedure.


Way too complicated to be answered here. However, my colleague hit most of the issues to be considered from the divorce side. From the real estate side you have a better shot. But attorneys are very expensive. I suggest you find a way to open up a conversation so that the two of you can talk this through. Otherwise the only ones to win in this deal are the attorneys


This situation points out the problems with blending your lives without the benefit of marriage. Married couples have a laws that are well established for just these types of situations.

My colleagues are correct, this can be very complicated. Complicated often means that no one is happy and everyone pays a lot of legal fees. Nonetheless you SHOULD talk to an attorney. Contracts/Real Estate are good areas, but so is Domestic Relations. Even without the benefit of marriage, a lot of the principles are similar.

A good attorney on both sides may be able to help negotiate an equitable settlement. If not, they may be able to help you through the mediation process with a private mediator without the necessity of having to file a lawsuit.

If you don't know a qualified attorney or have friends who have successfully used attorneys for similar issues, consider the other lawyers who have answered your question here or try the Dayton Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service. I have provided a link to the service below.

Hopefully you can find someone who is more willing to help you resolve your case than get involved in expensive litigation, unless that is absolutely necessary.


Just to be sure, Common Law Marriage was abolished prospectively in Ohio on October 10, 1991. If when you said "20 years" you were estimating, then take a look back and think if you started living with this person and held yourselves out at married, for example shared a checking account, told people that your were a couple, etc, before Oct. 10, 1991 then you might be married under the old common law which would give you all of the rights of any other married couple. If not, all of the other advice is accurate. Follow it.

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