The Houston Family Law Blog

Cohabitation Rates Higher, But, um, What is Cohabitation?

More and more Americans are choosing cohabitation as their preferred form of living arrangement, reports Freakanomics.

Citing a Pew Research Study, entitled “Living Together: The Economics of Cohabitation,” the website reports that the number of 30- to 44-year-olds living as unmarried couples has more than doubled since the mid-1990s.

But while many people are choosing cohabitation over marriage, it is important to understand exactly what is cohabitation. FindLaw’s Learn About the Law provides ample explanation:

Unlike marriage, cohabitation can be entered into without formal requirements. But this has costs. During the relationship, one member may need to defer to couple’s family members in health-related decisions, unless there is a general power of attorney.

Although a cohabitation can be ended informally, the emotional costs might be the same as of divorce. At the end, property can be divided in any way. But absence of legal guidelines may create conflict. Also, once the relationship is over, couples don’t incur obligation to support each other, unless they made an agreement to that effect.

Finally, the father of a child born to cohabitants does not get automatic presumption of paternity. He must establish it legally. If that happens, he will then incur legal obligation to support child. If cohabitation ends, the non-custodial parent will have a legal obligation to support his or her children as do divorced parents.

So there it is. Generally speaking, cohabitation is like marriage when it comes to children, but otherwise, is much less formal. And it may not necessarily be less messy. A competent Houston Family Law attorney can provide more information.

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