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The legal concerns of unmarried couples in Mississippi

Let's take a look this week at a subject that concerns many Gulfport couples who, for any number of reasons, are in a committed relationship but are not married. How does family law in Mississippi treat these unmarried couples?

For background, recall the Supreme Court's ruling in 2015 that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. Prior to that, many of these couples (and, indeed, some opposite-sex partnerships as well) would enter into a domestic partnership -- a term our readers have likely heard discussed in the media. In states that recognize them, domestic partnerships can help unmarried couples obtain some of the legal benefits of marriage.

Mississippi, however, is not one of those states. The state does not provide any legal rights or benefits for domestic partnerships, and neither does any municipality within the state. As per the Supreme Court in 2015, same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples have all of the same marriage rights, but unmarried couples in Mississippi remain simply that, regardless of how long they have been together.

What does this mean for these couples when family law issues arise? Perhaps one partner rents or owns the home in which they both live. What happens if that partner passes away suddenly -- does the other partner have to leave the home? What if one partner becomes seriously injured or ill, and medical decisions must be made on his or her behalf -- will an unmarried partner have any say in such decisions? Some unmarried couples may even have children together, and it's vital to understand what the law will say about custody if these couples split up or if one dies.

The answers to these questions will depend on many circumstances, but that does not mean that couples have no control. Some legal measures may be available to address these scenarios in advance, with the help of a professional experienced in Mississippi family legal issues.

Source: Findlaw.com, "State Laws: Domestic Partnerships," accessed on Oct. 20, 2017

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