Many couples cohabit before being married or opt to cohabit rather than marry. Unmarried couples living together, however, have different legal privileges from married couples. Unmarried couples do not have the same legal protection as married couples and are also not legally responsible for each other if they divorce. This means that if you are not married, the regulations that apply in a divorce do not apply to you. Talk to an experienced attorney to learn more today.
What is cohabiting?
When a couple lives together before civil partnership or marriage – or instead of marrying or getting into a civil partnership – this is called cohabiting. You are a cohabiting pair if you live with your spouse and are not married or in a civil partnership. You might want to consider signing a cohabitation agreement to make things easier if you decide to split up.
In the United States, the definition of family and what makes a “couple” has shifted dramatically over the last half-century. The law has slowly responded to the new reality. People living together outside of marriage have always been treated unfavorably by the law. However, because cohabitation has expanded tremendously in the last 50 years, the legislation in this area has altered significantly. With same-sex marriage becoming legal in many places, cohabitation rules are becoming increasingly favorable for couples.
Cohabitation vs. marriage
Almost all marriage-related family and property regulations do not apply to couples that are not legally married. More specifically, marriage provides a legal relationship between two people that confers certain privileges on both parties and the union. Unmarried cohabitants do not have this status and do not have many of the rights that married couples have. Thus, if a couple has been married for two years and one of them dies, the other spouse is most certainly entitled to the property, death benefits, insurance benefits, and so on from the deceased spouse’s estate. If an unmarried couple has lived together for a decade and one dies, the other is not entitled to any property or benefits.
Though many groups favor legal reforms that would provide unmarried cohabitants with protection similar to laws controlling marriage, few such laws exist now, and many states oppose such a change. Unmarried cohabitants should be aware of the laws in their state and towns and their alternatives regarding contractual arrangements that may grant them privileges similar to marital rights. For help with this information, you can reach out to an experienced attorney.