When cohabiting becomes complicated
When baby boomers were growing up divorce rates, along with the general public’s approval of divorce, were much lower. In the 1950s and 1960s, not only were people expected to marry and remain married for life, but they were also expected to do so without ever having lived together.
Fast forward to 2013 and people’s behaviors and views about marriage, divorce and cohabitation have shifted dramatically. Today, an estimated 66 percent of couples who marry live together prior to tying the knot and 60 percent of adults ages 18 to 44 agree that it’s “at least somewhat important” for a couple to cohabit before marrying.
While cohabiting may be more socially acceptable, in cases where an unmarried couple has a baby, things can quickly become complicated. For example, even in cases where a couple is committed and paternity is not a question, in order for the father to gain any legal parental rights to a child, a couple must take steps to establish paternity. In cases where a father fails to establish paternity and a couple subsequently splits, the father cannot petition for child custody or visitation rights until paternity is established.
Even in cases where a cohabiting couple establishes paternity, things can quickly become thorny if a couple subsequently calls it quits. According to one recent study, “nearly half of parents who are cohabiting at the time of their child’s birth break up within five years.” Additionally, many of these single parents then go on to cohabit and have additional children with other partners, further complicating custody and visitation issues.
Unmarried parents who are experiencing child custody and visitation challenges can turn to a divorce and family law attorney for help.
Source: Desert News, “Americans don’t like divorce, but view is softening on cohabitating,” Lois M. Collins, April 22, 2016
The Institute for Family Studies, “For Kids, Parental Cohabitation and Marriage Are Not Interchangeable, ” Alysse ElHage, May 7, 2015