Monday, October 17, 2011

The Legal Dangers of Cohabitation

If you don't get married, it's hard to get divorced.
A study by the Pew Research Center found that 39 percent of Americans think marriage is becoming obsolete. But it still takes a marriage (or some other legally binding agreement) to get a divorce. And as the number of couples choosing to live together rather than marry has increased drastically, so have the spats over their splits. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that almost half of its 1,600 members are seeing an increase in court battles between cohabiting couples. Nearly 40 percent of those lawyers said they’ve seen an increase in demand for cohabitation agreements — the equivalent of a prenup, sans wedding ring.

“It’s pretty heartbreaking,” Luxenberg says. “People don’t have rights unless they have the title — their name is on a piece of property or a bank account or something like that.”
Luxenberg recalls one client who lived with her partner for 20 years. They’d had a child and built a home together. The woman’s income was about $50,000, Luxenberg says, and her boyfriend’s was “six or seven times that.” When the couple split, the woman hired Luxenberg to see what recourse she had. The answer: not much.

There would be child support, “but she didn’t get any of his pension benefits or any of his profit sharing. And she wasn’t going to get alimony,” Luxenberg says. “I don’t think people think about those kinds of issues.” (Read entire article.)


The North Coast said...

Too bad about the pension benefits that she could have had.

But she likely would not get alimony no matter what, and child support- which is not to be confused with alimony- is usually a pittance relative to the non-custodial parent's income.

I have almost never seen a case where a woman was awarded a substantial hunk of an affluent spouse's income. However, I have seen many cases where the male spouse was awarded 80% of the property and was only made to pay child support not quite equal to the costs of day care. It depends on the state. California is usually very generous to wives, while Missouri (where I have many relatives) will usually award everything to the husband.

On the other hand, it will be easier to keep any property she owned in her own name. Divorce courts are often very unfair to the female half of the marriage in dividing up property. Really, only in "community property" states is the division of property halfway equitable. Many people think that a 50% split is unfair because the working partner brought so much more material assets in, but it is the only way to make sure a stay-at-home wife gets a fair shake. Just because her work did not "bring in money" does not mean it isn't work. People who resent this should not get married.

Divorce and breakups are nasty and tragic and leave mothers and children stranded no matter what. But cohabitation is usually worse for a dependent female. I've never understood why a woman would place herself in a position of complete financial dependence on a man without getting married.

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks for sharing your insights, North Coast.

Julygirl said...

One has to be somewhat amused by the fact that the homosexual community fight so hard to get marital rights while heteros co-habitate to their disadvantage.

elena maria vidal said...

Another good point.

Lorraine said...

God has given us rules for our own benefit! When we ignore them and spit in God's faith we personally, and as a society reap what we have sown.

elena maria vidal said...

Very true, Lorraine.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

It's heartbreaking how little people think of marriage. And I seriously don't understand people raising children together who won't get married. They'll have kids, but are afraid of commitment?

elena maria vidal said...

I don't understand having babies with someone who can't or won't marry you.

The North Coast said...

Agree, Maria.

I don't understand a woman who deliberately brings a child into the world without providing two parents for him. It seems incredibly selfish, indulgent, and short-sighted, and shows utter disregard for the well-being of the child.