Life Estate DeedsAmericans have become more accepting of couples living together before marriage and same sex relationships according to government survey results released yesterday. The same survey shows, though, that Americans have grown less comfortable with divorce.

In an article reported by The Republic in Columbus, Indiana, the government asked thousands of teens and younger adults what they thought about changes in U.S. family relationships. The results released Thursday indicate a drastic shift in attitudes over a decade about cohabiting, same-sex relationships and divorce.   There’s no question that divorce has become more common in the U.S. over the years.  What the survey reveals, however, is that the percentage of Americans who think it’s the best solution when a marriage is on the rocks has declined. In the last ten years, 38 percent of women agreed that divorce was the best solution, down from 47 percent and for men, it was 39 percent, down from 44 percent.

Living Together Before Marriage Becomes More Acceptable

The survey was conducted by the Center for Disease Controls based on interviews with thousands of participants.  The CDC survey revealed that attitudes about living together before marriage have changed over the same time period. About 75% of men and women now think that it’s okay for couples to cohabit before they get married.

In fact, some respondents believed that living together before getting married would help cut down on the likelihood of divorce. Approximately 67% of men agreed with this statement and 60% of women believed this too.

With the Increase of Cohabiting Comes the Legal Challenges Faced by Couples

With the increase of acceptance of living together before marriage, more and more couples are cohabiting in Massachusetts. The challenge that cohabiting couples face is that Massachusetts doesn’t recognize common law marriage.

Since common law marriage isn’t recognized in our state, couples do not have the same protections in their relationships that married people do. For example, when a cohabiting couple breaks up there’s no “rule book” or group of laws that govern how property acquired by both of them during the relationship should be divided up.

Compare that to married couples: when married people divorce there is a whole set of statutory rules that control how they divide up the house, the bank accounts, the retirement accounts and even the personal property.  When the married couple can’t agree upon a division of these marital assets, then the Court, using these statutory rules, decides.  That’s just not how it works when you’re living together.

How Do Couples Living Together Protect Themselves in Case of Break Up?

The best thing that cohabiting couples can do to protect themselves in case of a break up or death is to enter into a cohabitation agreement.  A cohabitation agreement is a contract that sets out each partner’s intentions about how property should be divided in the event of a break up or death.

Cohabitation agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements that some married people have. A cohab agreement can help a couple through some of the most challenging times they might face in their relationship – break up or death.

If you’re interested in discussing the benefits of a cohabitation agreement and would like to schedule a consultation with Attorney Andrew Garcia then contact us now.