I’m getting 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 means a boatload of kids watched their parents divorce and suffered the emotional consequences, especially in those early years when 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 as these kids grow into their 20’s and 30’s, a very interesting trend is emerging. 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 serially monogamous, long term relationships, often including children and joint home purchases, but forgoing the tradition of a recognized marriage. I get it. They don’t want to go through what their parents went through so the heck with marriage! We don’t need no stinkin’ marriage! Let’s face it, most of the social shame is gone around “living in sin”.
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 the 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.
Unfortunately, in year 3 of 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 (Gosh this never happens does it?) Oh, and by the way, in year 2, 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.
What is 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 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 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! There is another answer. A simple Cohabitation Agreement. 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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