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More Americans putting off or forgoing marriage

A new trend has been documented among Americans of all socioeconomic classes. Instead of the traditional sequence of love, marriage and then starting a family, many people are postponing marriage until later in life or forgoing it altogether. And in many cases, unmarried couples are starting families first.

Sociologists and marriage experts explain that there are several factors fueling the trend. For one, the economic recession has led many young adults to put off marriage until they are in a more "financially secure" position. As a 32-year-old Midwesterner put it, "I've got about a million things to dedicate financial resources to before I can even think about buying an engagement ring or paying for a wedding."

Additionally, there is less pressure from society to settle down at an early age. A 25-year-old woman, also from the Midwest, said not having the pressure to marry gives her the chance to focus on her career and other adventures life has to offer. "I think it's definitely different than it's ever been before, probably even in the past 10 years," she said.

Looking back to the 1950s, close to three out of four households were married couples. Today, married couples make up less than half of American households. But this doesn't mean that adults are remaining childless. In fact, four in 10 births are now to unmarried women, which is more than double the rate in 1970. Interestingly, 60 percent of these new mothers are in their 20s.

What some people don't realize, though, is that marriage provides certain rights under the law that unmarried couples might not have. For example, if an unmarried couple with three children splits up, the partner who stayed home with the kids will likely have no claim to spousal support like he or she might at the end of a marriage.

A co-habitation agreement is one way to help to spell out the rights and responsibilities of both parties, including how shared property will be divided, in the event of a breakup. For more information on the legal rights of unmarried couples and parents, talk to an experienced family law attorney in your area.

Source: Star Tribune, "Middle class trading 'I do' for 'maybe later'," Kim Ode, June 11, 2012

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Law Offices of Harris & Literski
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