For decades, cohabitation prior to marriage was frowned upon. More recently, however, the act has become more acceptable, with many Californians living together in long-term relationships without marriage, and others waiting for many years before tying the knot.
Research is divided as to whether divorce cohabitation prior to marriage increases divorce rates. One study released last month indicated that cohabiting couples are more likely to divorce after five years of marriage, but a study released just a few weeks after that suggested that cohabiting couples are less likely to divorce. Some think that societal acceptance of cohabitation has had an effect on the outcome of these studies, skewing them to show that divorce amongst these couples is less likely.
Also, the studies may not account for all factors related to cohabitation. For example, some suggest that researchers should consider a couple's intentions when they move in together. If a couple plans on marrying later but wants to live together first, then the risk of divorce may be decreased when compared to a couple that moves in together without any discussion of relationship expectations.
Cohabitation can be a tricky matter for Californians. After all, living together for years can lead to the accumulation of property, children, and certain financial expectations. For this reason, those who find themselves in this position may want to sit down with a family law attorney to discuss how best to protect themselves in the event of a breakup, marriage, or (if marriage occurs) divorce. Depending on one's unique set of circumstances, a cohabitation agreement, prenuptial agreement, or skillful negotiation and litigation may be necessary to address issues like property division, spousal support, and child custody. These are all areas where a skilled attorney may prove valuable.