There are strong moral reasons why couples shouldn’t just live together without being married. There are also strong psychological reasons why this is not a good idea. (See also this.) The Washington Post‘s financial advice columnist, Michelle Singletary, points out that there are also strong financial reasons not to, that sharing housing expenses, bank accounts, and buying property together can be disastrous if the couple isn’t married. [Read more…]
More from the first working document from the Catholic synod on the family: The Church should “appreciate the positive values” that can be found in gay unions and with couples living together out of wedlock. Traditional marriage, it says, is “ideal,” but the synod is raising the question, “What good can we find” in non-marital unions? [Read more…]
The number of unmarried couples who are just living together skyrocketed in the last decades of the 20th century. But since 2000 the cohabitation rate has stalled. Experts are saying that one reason may be that living together has become so common that it has become traditional, rather like marriage. And, like marriage, living together is perceived as requiring too much commitment. [Read more…]
Twenty years ago, Vice-presidential candidate Dan Quayle gave a much-ridiculed speech in which he warned about the dangers of single-parenthood, specifically attacking the way it was becoming socially-accepted through the example of TV shows such as Murphy Brown. Today, writes Isabel Sawhill in the Washington Post (no less), it is evident that Dan Quayle was right.
You should read what she has to say. The evidence abounds that children do much better when their parents are married to each other. She cites many interesting facts, such as this seemingly-easy-to-follow plan to avoid poverty:
If individuals do just three things — finish high school, work full time and marry before they have children — their chances of being poor drop from 15 percent to 2 percent.
One point she makes I found particularly striking. She says that even when children are raised by both parents, the children do much better if their parents are married, as opposed to just living together. The reason this is so, she says, remains a mystery.
Why do you think this is the case?
As the number of co-habiting couples skyrockets, a new legal problem has come to the fore: What to do when the couples split up? From an article in the Washington Post:
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.” . . .
A recent census report found that 7.5 million heterosexual couples lived together in 2010, up 13 percent from 2009. The report suggests that some of the shift may be attributed to the economy — more couples than in the previous year reported at least one party being unemployed. (An Onion TV headline put it this way: “Nation’s Girlfriends Unveil New Economic Plan: ‘Let’s Move In Together.’ ”)
The numbers have been climbing over the past decade as cohabitation has become more socially acceptable.
Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, an organization that promotes marriage, worries about the effect this has on children.
The good news, he says, is that divorces among parents with children have returned to levels not seen since the 1960s. Of couples who married in the early 1960s, 23 percent divorced before their first child turned 10. The rate peaked at slightly more than 27 percent in the late 1970s. By the mid-1990s, the rate dropped to just above 23 percent.
But a recent report Wilcox wrote, titled “Why Marriage Matters,” concludes that American families are less stable overall, in large part because couples are choosing cohabitation over marriage. Today, 24 percent of U.S. children are born to cohabiting couples, according to the report, and an additional 20 percent will live in a cohabiting household at some point in their childhood.
And 65 percent of children born to cohabiting parents will experience a parental breakup by the time they turn 12, compared with 24 percent of kids born to married parents.
“The more commitment people have to a relationship, typically the better they’ll do, the happier they are,” Wilson says.
This generation’s preference for cohabitation, he adds, may be a backlash against their parents’ propensity for divorce. But not getting married doesn’t protect couples who live together from heartache when the relationship falls apart.
The article goes on to give a number of sad stories. But isn’t the point of just living together instead of getting married so that no one gets “tied down”? Don’t a lot of people avoid getting married precisely so as to free themselves from the cost of divorce, alimony, sharing of assets, and the like? If a couple isn’t married, what claim can they possibly have on each other’s property? I don’t see how cohabiting couples have any grounds for complaining. Of course the relationship isn’t permanent. Of course you don’t have any kind of legal ties. I thought that was the point!
Maybe we could restore the time-honored option of common law marriage. If you live together for longer than a specified time, then you are married, whether you have a ceremony or whether you want to be or not, with all of the rights and responsibilities thereof!
HT: Frank Sonnek