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Only ½ of US Adults Married, and Dropping

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on December 16, 2011 5:46 AM

Americans are getting married later and less often, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Only 51% of adults are married, and only 20% of those aged 18 to 29.

Though marriage is down, cohabitation is up. More couples are either not marrying or are living together before tying the knot. Unfortunately, such living arrangements present a slew of legal issues for the persons involved.

However, cohabitation agreements can help fill in those gaps.

Unmarried couples who live together have none of the rights granted to married persons. Property rights, spousal support and power of attorney are not automatic. A well-written cohabitation agreement can fix this.

Partners who don't want to (or can't) get married or become registered domestic partners can still contract into many of the traditional rights and obligations. The variations are endless, but a cohabitation agreement can:

  • Clearly delineate financial responsibilities during the relationship
  • Designate liability for debt
  • Create a right to support payments
  • Ensure financial responsibility for a child
  • Provide for visitation rights for the non-custodial partner
  • Prevent property disputes
  • Dictate the rights of the surviving partner
  • Grant power to make medical and financial decisions

Cohabitation agreements can even be so specific as to designate who does what chores. It all depends on what you and your partner want to do.

But before you do it, talk to an attorney. State laws vary, and some rights may not legally be part of a cohabitation agreement.

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