Although precise data is hard to come by, it is nonetheless clear that marriage rates are on the decline in the United States. This is, in part, due to the high rate of divorce that many Americans in their 20s and 30s witnessed when they were growing up.
Instead of getting married, many couples are opting for cohabitation instead. They live together, they may comingle finances and other assets and might even choose to have kids together. While there is certainly nothing wrong with cohabitation before or instead of marriage, you should know that it does not spare couples from the financial and other consequences of divorce. In fact, divorce offers some legal protections that unmarried couples will not have if and when they dissolve their relationship.
As in other states, laws in Missouri offer certain legal benefits to married couples as well as some legal protections for couples getting a divorce. As just one example, Missouri is an equitable distribution state. This means that when a couple gets divorced, the law calls for an equitable (though not necessarily equal) division of both assets and debts. There are few if any statutes pertaining to unmarried couples.
The good news is there are ways that unmarried couples can protect themselves in the event that their relationship ends and they no longer wish to live together. Cohabitation agreements are a great way for couples to define each person’s rights as well as their responsibilities if the relationship ever comes to an end. Cohabitation agreements are somewhat similar to prenuptial agreements, except that no nuptials will actually take place.
At Stange Law Firm, we help individuals and couples in Missouri and Illinois with a wide array of family law issues, including cohabitation agreements for unwed couples. To learn more, please visit the cohabitation agreements page on our website.