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Family law matters can arise within unmarried couples

Maryland residents may be interested to know that the Pew Research Center recently released a study showing that only 51 percent of American adults are taking their wedding vows, representing an all-time low. However, the number of unmarried couples moving in together has been on the rise, as people decide to delay marriage.

Yet just as a marriage may end in divorce, a relationship can result in a breakup, and that breakup may have features normally associated with a divorce. To assist with family law matters that arise in the event of the end of a relationship, many unmarried couples are turning to cohabitation agreements.

Much like a prenuptial agreement, a cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract that spells out how certain issues will be handled should the couple decide to break up. For example, the agreement may include provisions relating to the division of property. However, it may also include provisions that can be used to determine support obligations, and it may even further cover child custody matters.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers recently conducted a survey of 1,600 divorce attorneys that included questions about the popularity of cohabitation agreements. Overall, 39 percent of respondents reported seeing an increase in the number of these agreements over the past five years. Moreover, though, nearly half reported an increase in the number of court battles between unmarried couples.

This may go to show that just as family law matters arise in a divorce, they may also arise in a breakup. Maryland residents who are considering moving in with their partner may well wish to consider the possible legal implications of their decision. Taking the time to address many of the matters that could arise in a breakup prior to living together may help to prevent expensive court battles in the event the relationship comes to an end.

Source: CNN Money, “Prenups aren’t just for married couples anymore,” Jessica Dickler, March 20, 2012

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