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Maryland family law matters: More couples choosing not to marry

Family law matters can seem more complicated in certain Maryland cases where a couple commingles most, if not all, aspects of their lives without actually taking the formal step of getting married. Divorce makes navigating most family law matters relatively straightforward, since a judge will make those decisions that splitting couples are not able to decide themselves. But trying to divvy everything up when a couple never legally wed can sometimes add an extra layer of complication to the entire process.

Statistics show that marriage is actually at an all-time law in the United States. According to some reports, the number of children born to unmarried parents is more than half of those born to mothers younger than 30 years old. While there's nothing at all wrong with choosing to cohabitate rather than wed, what can become a sticky situation is the lack of any sort of formal agreement between the couple. Decisions like child custody, child or spousal support and what will happen to the family home in the event of a split are items that could be addressed in a cohabitation agreement.

Not having a formal marriage certificate or an official cohabitation agreement, on the other hand, may make things more difficult in the event that a breakup does occur. It can also complicate issues that many couples may not even think of, such as future retirement benefits, inheritance rights and even health coverage. Those partners in a couple that never married may find it difficult to work out the details of such arrangements after a split.

With all that being said, however, it's not to say that Maryland couples who do not wish to wed must rush right out to the altar in order to protect themselves. Family law matters between unmarried couples can often be solved by taking the necessary steps while the relationship is on solid footing to prepare for the event of an unfortunate breakup. Legal documents such as cohabitation agreements along with formalizing estate plans may be a good option for unmarried couples to take now to protect each partner later.

Source: New York Observer, "No Divorce Is the New Divorce: Moms and Dads Navigate Messy Breakups in Marriage-less World," Rose Surnow, March 19, 2013

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