Guest post by Paul Duron, Family Law Attorney
We are told from an early age that someday we will meet someone, fall in love, and get married. This has been the accepted concept of life planning for generations. However, today’s couples are no longer blindly following the social norm.
It is estimated than 25% of millennials skip the matrimonial step altogether when they begin their lives with their life partner. There are theories as to how we are evolving toward cohabitating without the legal protection of marriage. Here are a few of the most commonly accepted suppositions:
- Most people today are in their late 20’s and early 30’s when they marry. This is when they are just beginning their careers, and student loans are looming over them. They simply do not want to assume someone else’s debt or share their own debt with their partner. The idea of living together and each adult assuming his or her own financial responsibility is more easily accepted.
Children of divorce
- Many young people went through the emotional destruction of the divorce of their parents. This is hard for anyone to deal with and they simply do not want their own children to have the same experience.
Society and customs shifts
- Outside the United States, marriage was often the union of two families. Love had far less to do with matrimony as position and stature. Women were not considered equal, and they had limited rights.
- Today, women have come into their own power and refuse to be treated as a possession. It is no longer socially unacceptable to be single or remain unmarried. Single mothers are honored and respected, and a marriage certificate or lack of one has no bearing on the position a woman holds in the community.
- People no longer accept the concept that a marriage license makes someone a parent. Many single mothers and fathers are extraordinary parents, and the best interest of the child is their priority. With technology, we can now prove the heritage of the child and take legal steps to protect the relationship of the child with each parent, regardless of the relationship between the adults.
Are you legally protected?
Long Beach Family Attorney, Paul Duron explains that our legal system has not kept up the pace with our societal changes. The fact that a couple decides to share their lives as a couple does not provide them with legal protection.
Even if the couple lives together for many years, purchases property together, co-parents, and accepts each other as life partners, they have no legal rights in the eyes of the court. If there are medical choices to be made, financial decisions to be made, or estates to be settled, the lack of a legal binding agreement (such as a marriage document) means your life partner has no right to act on your behalf.
If you die without a will
If you pass away and do not have a will, the state will settle your estate. If you were not married and had no children, your estate goes to your parents or siblings. If your partner lives in the home you shared, but their name is not on the deed, the property goes to your living parents or siblings, and if they choose to, they can have your partner removed and sell the property, keeping the profits. This is legal. If you want your property to go to your partner, you must have a will that clearly specifies who is to receive what.
Can you protect yourself without resorting to marriage?
Yes. In order to protect yourself and your children, your attorney can prepare a cohabitation agreement. This is a legal document that spells out exactly who owns what, and how you want your estate handled in the event of a break-up. The details will include, who buys out whom and for how much, who will move out and how long they must do so, financial agreements such as monthly support payments, who will pay for insurance and other details.
The cohabitation contract is legally binding and protects each of you in the event of a breakup.
It doesn’t matter why
The ugly truth is the legal system does not cover everyone in every situation. If you are unmarried and living together as a family, a gay family residing in some states, or senior citizens who do not marry because they cannot afford to lose their benefits, you are at risk. If you are one of these families and you face a death or break-up, you probably just want to pick up the pieces as painlessly as possible. If you have the fortitude, finances, and desire to fight the social injustices – that is great. However, many of us are more concerned with how we will survive in the immediate future.
Be prepared and be protected
There are many legal steps you can take to protect yourself and your family if you have chosen the non-traditional lifestyle of an unmarried union. This is an important issue to address before you purchase property, homes, or create savings together. If you have children, it is essential. Just as you would not dream of having a child without the benefit of financial security, and preparations for their education and medical needs, you cannot ignore the fact that they do not fit easily into the legal slots carved out by society. Preparation is protection.
You have a right to live as you please
In America, we can live as we please and with whom we want. While the laws may not be keeping up with us, we have safeguards that allow us to live life as we want and to be protected. It is as simple as exercising your rights by having the correct paperwork. Take care of this today and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with preparation. Contact your family law attorney and allow them to create the correct contracts for your situation. Do not wait. We never know what will happen tomorrow, and your financial security is at risk until you take precautions to protect your partner and children.