We have 5 children in our blended family and now the first of them is about to hit his 20’s and looking for Mrs. Right, I’m concerned!!! Millennials and Generation Z young adults could be the first generations of children-of-divorce. By 1983, all but 2 states had adopted no-fault divorce laws and over the next decades, the divorce rate rose to our now norm of about 50%. That resulted in many of those kids watching their parents’ divorce and suffering the emotional consequences that often accompany that. When you really consider the early years, there were few resources available to couples and families on how to go through the process in the most humane way. But let’s face it, even with the resources today, there are still plenty of ugly divorce tales out there.

So, for a lot of these kids, as they grow past their 20’s and into their 30’s, a very interesting trend is persisting. The divorce rate, the number of divorces per marriages, continues to rise but the actual number of divorces each year is dropping steadily. Why is this? Because young people are not getting married! They are choosing instead to be in serially monogamous, long-term relationships, often including children and joint home purchases, but forgoing the tradition of a recognized marriage. I understand. They don’t want to go through what their parents went through so the heck with marriage! However, the result of this when life doesn’t go as planned can be disastrous. No burden of marriage also means no protections of marriage.

Consider this: Josh and Beth have been together 4 years and decide to have children. They agree that Beth will stay home and care for the kids while Josh finishes his degree and works nights to support the family. Once he’s done and gainfully employed, the kids will be a little older and Beth will then go back to school and finish her degree.

Well, life happens, and three years into this fabulous plan, Josh is about to graduate and drops the bombshell on Beth that he’s been having an affair with a fellow student. He’s in love and just can’t go on like this. He’ll be a good dad to their children but he’s leaving her. (Didn’t see it coming, did you?) Oh, and by the way, last year they bought a home but since Beth had no income, they didn’t want her low credit score to drag down their interest rate, so the house and mortgage are in Josh’s name.

So, what’s Beth entitled to?  She’s like entitled to child support. The house was purchased by Josh and now that Josh is about to finish school and have a great job he can move on with his life in house. But they had plans! They had an agreement and she sacrificed her education to pay for his! Too bad. Had they been married, she could have been entitled to half the equity in the home, possible reimbursement for half of his education expenses and a portion of anything they acquired during the marriage. But boy, isn’t she lucky that she doesn’t have to go through a divorce? Josh kicked her out a week later and she and the kids had to move home with her parents.

Now, Texas does recognize common law marriage, but you will likely need an attorney to determine if you are married or not. What does that mean for Josh and Beth? It means Beth hires an attorney to prove they were married while Josh hires an attorney to prove they were not – after they fight about being married or not they then go on to fight over the house, the debt, the kids and anything else they own. What does that sound like? It sounds like the litigated divorce the parties set out to avoid in the beginning by not legally saying “I Do”.

This is SO REAL!! We highly encourage young people who wish to cohabitate take the time to visit an attorney to walk through the legal ramifications of this prior to moving in together. A simple Cohabitation Agreement can change many things. There are free ones available all over the internet or you can visit a family law attorney for more specific advice pertaining to your set of facts. Never move in with someone without one! It could end up saving you your entire financial life.