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Not getting married doesn't avoid complexities of divorce

"It's helpful to get married, if you want to get divorced." On the surface, this sentence seems obvious -- after all, you cannot get divorced in Utah unless you are married first. But the man who said this meant that cohabitation, or two unmarried adults living as a family with children, does not necessarily simplify things if the couple wants to split up. In the man's case, it actually made things more difficult that there is no divorce process for cohabiting couples.

Many couples are reluctant to get married, even though they are in love and plan to spend their lives together. Perhaps their parents got a divorce growing up and those memories contributed to that decision. But when a couple lives together for years and has children together, dissolving that partnership is likely going to be complex, married or not. And without the structured process of divorce, reaching a fair division of assets and child custody plan can be difficult.

One advantage that divorce has over ending an unmarried relationship is that laws in Utah and most states provide some legal protection. In court, a spouse can request alimony and be granted it if he or she is entitled, but a member of an unmarried couple may be vulnerable to the other partner's sense of responsibility.

Interestingly, some former members of cohabitating relationships believe that their relationships may not have ended if they had chosen marriage. One man whose breakup with the mother of his children took several years said that not being married meant that the door was always open to leaving, and getting married might have psychologically closed that door.

Source: The 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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