Is It Better to Just Live Together?

by Jan 17, 2020

I’m worried about our kids. They’re the first generation of children-of-divorce. By 1983, all but 2 states had adopted no-fault divorce laws and over the next decades, the divorce rate rose to our now norm of about 50%. That resulted in many of those kids watching their parents’ divorce and suffering the emotional consequences that often accompany that. When you really consider the early years, there were few resources available to couples and families on how to go through the process in the most humane way. But let’s face it, even with the resources today, there are still plenty of ugly divorce tales out there.

So, for a lot of these kids, as they grow past their 20’s and into their 30’s, a very interesting trend is persisting. The divorce rate, the number of divorces per marriages, continues to rise but the actual number of divorces each year is dropping steadily. Why is this? Because young people are not getting married! They are choosing instead to be in serially monogamous, long-term relationships, often including children and joint home purchases, but forgoing the tradition of a recognized marriage. I understand. They don’t want to go through what their parents went through so the heck with marriage! I’ll be in control of my OWN life!

Here’s the problem…

No burden of marriage also means no protections of marriage. Consider this: Josh and Beth have been together 4 years and decide to have children. They agree that Beth will stay home and care for the kids while Josh finishes his degree and works nights to support the family. Once he’s done and gainfully employed, the kids will be a little older and Beth will then go back to school and finish her degree.

Well, life happens, and three years into this fabulous plan, Josh is about to graduate and drops the bombshell on Beth that he’s been having an affair with a fellow student. He’s in love and just can’t go on like this. He’ll be a good dad to Emily and Jordan but he’s leaving her. (Didn’t see it coming, did you?) Oh, and by the way, last year they bought a home but since Beth had no income they didn’t want her low credit score to drag down their interest rate so the house and mortgage are in Josh’s name.

So, what’s Beth legally entitled to?

Child support. Yep, that’s it. But they had plans! They had an agreement and she sacrificed her education to pay for his! Too bad. Had they been married, she could have been entitled to half the equity in the home, possible reimbursement for half of his education expenses, maintenance to carry her through the first few years after the marriage, and a portion of anything they acquired during the marriage. But boy, isn’t she lucky that she doesn’t have to go through a divorce? Josh kicked her out a week later and she and the kids had to move home with her parents.

Now, some states do have common law marriage laws but even then, you aren’t protected until AFTER the length of time before they will recognize it. And FYI, Arizona does NOT recognize Common Law Marriage.

This is SO REAL!! Young People! Wake UP!!!!! Now I get it about getting married and you don’t have to! But at least put some protections in place. A simple Cohabitation Agreement can change many things. There are free ones available all over the internet. Never, never, never move in with someone without one. It could end up saving you your entire financial life.

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