More couples than ever are deciding to live together without getting married. The latest census data shows that the number of heterosexual cohabitating couples has more than doubled, to 7.5 million from 2.8 million in 1996. In many cases, those couples are avoiding marriage to avoid the problems of divorce. But it isn’t working. Many unmarried couples are finding that their breakups are turning out to be just as messy as a divorce.
Unmarried couples that take on some of the trappings of marriage, like buying a house, having children, supporting each other financially, etc., have to untangle those things when they break up. These untangling are increasingly making their way into the legal system.
One distinct disadvantage faced by unmarried couples is that issues related to their breakup have to be dealt with separately in the legal system. For instance, child support and child custody issues are separate from the issues of division of a home or property. In a divorce, all of these issues would be part of one legal action.
Pittsburgh family law attorneys point out another danger, which is sharing property with a partner but having none of the property in one’s own name. For instance, if partners live together for many years without getting married, when one partner dies, that partner’s relatives could claim the deceased’s property, and the surviving partner would have little or no recourse if the property is in the deceased partner’s name.
Foreseeing these dangers, many couples are opting to have cohabitation agreements, which are like prenuptials without the nuptials. That way, they can agree beforehand how property division and other issues will be handled if they break up.
Source: stltoday.com “For live-in lovers, breaking up can be worse than a divorce” 3/16/2011