Bye bye divorce, hello unmarried parents, the new nuclear family?

On behalf of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC posted in Family Law on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

Research out of the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project last year found that children today are twice as likely to have unmarried or cohabitating parents then they are divorced parents. According to the Center for Disease Control, there was a 10 percent increase from 2002 to 2010 in the number of children born to females living with a male partner. One of the biggest issues facing children used to be divorce, now it is by far more common to have cohabitating parents than divorced parents.

In an informal survey by readers of Parenting, the number one reason cited for not getting married even though children were involved was money or lack of money. One couple stated they chose to purchase a home and pay for a mortgage over having a wedding reception. Others stated there was simply no point in getting married because it was so devalued in society.

Some claim the media attention of cohabitating celebrities with children, such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, means there simply is no longer a taboo associated with living together like there was 40 years ago. Others are asking if this trend is a good thing while most everyone can agree having happily unmarried parents is better than unhappily married parents, but what about the long-term stability of these relationships, some family experts ask.

The National Marriage project found that two-thirds of the children of cohabitating parents will experience a breakup by the age of 12. Compare that to one-fourth of those parents who married before the children came along will seek a divorce. Some family psychologists suggest that perhaps the ambivalence of unmarried parents can lead to instability in a relationship and maybe it is that ambivalence that leads them to live together rather than get married in the first place.

Regardless of why people choose to get married or not, when there are children involved without marriage, parental rights issues can arise should the couple decide to no longer cohabitate. There are numerous local, state and federal laws on the books surrounding divorce however, when a father is not married to the mother, there can be unforeseen complications in asserting his parental rights, depending on the laws in his state. For couples who choose to cohabitate, it might be beneficial to seek out a family law attorney who can help solidify a father's paternity rights before any disputes arise.

Source: Atlanta Blackstar, "Are Cohabitating Parents the New Nuclear Family," Stanley Yorker, July 3, 2012

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