Wednesday, October 12, 2016
On August 30, 2016, the New York Court of Appeals issued a landmark decision in In the Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.C.C. As a result, New York now recognizes that children may have a second parent not related to them by blood, adoption, or marriage.
The Brooke S.B. case involved Brooke and Elizabeth—unmarried partners in a lesbian couple—who were engaged to be married in 2007. In 2008, Elizabeth became pregnant through artificial insemination and gave birth to a baby boy. Brooke had no legal or biological ties to the child, but she maintained a close, parental relationship with him for years, which included giving him her last name and raising him jointly with Elizabeth.
The couple separated in 2010, and in 2013, Elizabeth began restricting Brooke’s contact with the child, so Brooke filed for custody.
Read more here.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
From The Indiana Lawyer:
A trial court correctly awarded certain property to a woman who filed a complaint against her longtime partner for unjust enrichment after the two broke up after a 17-year relationship, the Indiana Court of Appeals held.
Jeffrey McMahel and Mary Deaton met in 1996 and shortly moved in together in McMahel’s home. They have one child together, born in 1998. During their time together, both worked, with McMahel making substantially more than Deaton. He began receiving disability toward the end of their relationship, unable to work due to his multiple sclerosis. The two moved into a house McMahel later bought in his name only and the two purchased vehicles together, went on vacation together and shared a bank account.
After they broke up in 2014, Deaton filed the complaint alleging unjust enrichment. The trial court found sufficient evidence to support an equitable clam for recovery, as McMahel would be unjustly enriched if the court took the position that Deaton had no claim to any of the assets held in McMahel’s name alone or to the growth of his asset base that occurred during their cohabitation.
Orange Circuit Judge Larry Blanton awarded certain cars or other property to Deaton, her 401(k) account, as well as a $13,102.30 equalization payment from McMahel for a total award of $54,753.32.
McMahel appealed in Jeffrey L. McMahel v. Mary A. Deaton, 59A04-1601-PL-91, asking the appellate court to reconsider its holding inBright v. Kuehl, 650 N.E.2d 311 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995).
Read more here.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
From Deseret News:
The number of Americans who find cohabitating acceptable has been growing, but fewer adults say they approve of divorce, according to a recent National Health Statistics report.
It's a continuation of a half-century of dramatic change in American family life, according to authors Jill Daugherty and Casey Copen, both Ph.Ds in the Center for Disease Control's Division of Vital Statistics. Their report outlines great change in family life: People marry for the first time later than in the past, divorce rates that shot up are now dropping, the fertility rate is lower, more people are cohabitating, a smaller share of new babies are being born to married parents and more of first births are to older mothers.
The report is based on data from the 2002, 2006-2010, and 2011-2013 editions of the National Survey of Family Growth.
"Living together before marriage may help prevent divorce," was agreed to by 60 percent of women and 67 percent of men in the 2011-2013 group. Those numbers are similar to findings in the previous survey as well. But the number who agreed "divorce is usually the best solution when a couple can't seem to work out their marriage problems" dropped from 46.7 percent of women and 44.3 percent of men in 2002 to 38 percent of women and 39.3 percent of men in the 2011-2013 group.
Similarly, support for the opinion that "a young couple should not live together unless they are married" dropped between 2002 and 2011-2013 — among women from 34.7 percent to 28 percent, and among men from 32 percent to 24.8 percent.
Read more here.
Saturday, April 16, 2016
From Family Studies:
There has always been a fierce debate about the relationship between cohabitation and divorce risks. Some argue that cohabitation lessens people’s commitment to partnership and thus increases their risk of divorce, while others believe that a cohabitation phase before marriage (as a trial marriage) would strengthen marital stability. In the United States, data suggest that the effect of cohabitation on marriage is at best neutral; however, in European countries, the effect of cohabitation on marital stability varies markedly, according to a study covering the last decade of the twentieth century (Liefbroer and Dourleijn, 2006).
In some countries, like Austria and the USA, over 30 percent of individuals’ first unions were cohabiting relationships, while in other countries, like Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Spain, and the UK, more than half of all first unions were marriages not preceded by cohabitation. Cohabitation followed by marriage is most common (describing more than 30 percent of first unions) in Austria, Germany, and Norway.
Why such variation in union formation and stability? The legal foundations of cohabitation and marriage differ from one European country to another. In some countries, like the Netherlands, simply living together for a few years provides a legal basis to the cohabitation and allows the couple to act together (for instance, to obtain a home mortgage based on both partners’ incomes). In other countries, establishing a legal basis for cohabitation may require a contract drawn up by a notary, or a registration at the town hall (France). Further, in some countries, dissolving a legalized cohabitation has to be done in court, especially if there are children involved.
In most European countries (especially those that have used the Napoleonic Code Civile for their own laws), getting married is not a religious act, but a secular one that must take place before any religious marriage ceremony. This is the case in the Netherlands, for example. And even in places like Italy where one can become legally married within a religious ceremony, only civil laws, not the laws of the religion, are relevant for the ceremony’s consequences (for instance, divorce). Therefore, in some nations, the differences between a legalized cohabitation and a marriage are slim. When couples can enjoy some of the legal and financial benefits of partnerships without marrying, they may be more likely to simply cohabit.
Read more here.
Friday, March 18, 2016
From Fox 40:
Couples shacking up together would no longer be breaking the law under a bill passed by the Florida Legislature.
The Florida House on Wednesday voted 112-5 to repeal the state’s largely unenforced prohibition on cohabitation. The bill heads now to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.
Under a law that has been on the books since 1868, a man and woman living together could be fined $500 and locked up in jail for 60 days. According to 2014 census data, there are nearly 438,000 unmarried male-female couples among 7.3 million Florida households.
The bill seeks to repeal the entire statute covering married or unmarried men and women “engaging in open behavior that is gross lewdness and lascivious.”
Florida is one of only a handful of states that still has a law making cohabitation illegal.
Read more here.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
From Action News Jacksonville:
Living with a significant other out of wedlock is illegal in Florida, but anew push, mostly by Democratic state lawmakers, is trying to do away with the ban on shacking up.
Michigan, Mississippi and Florida are the only states where it’s illegal for a man and a woman to live together and not be married.
The current law dates back to 1868.
It’s rarely enforced, but multiple attempts to do away with the ban on cohabitation have failed. However, many lawmakers want it off the books for good.
Senate Bill 498 is moving forward in Tallahassee. A Senate panel voted Thursday in favor of the bill, sponsored by State Sen. Eleanor Sobel. The bill now moves to the full Senate for a vote.
Local Republican State Rep. Charles Van Zant has been against changing the law since the beginning. But, Ryan Strickland, who lived with his wife for four years before they got married, says it’s time.
“People need to adjust as the time goes on,” Strickland said. “Lots of laws need to be adjusted to reflect the times and the feelings of people.”
Read more here.
Monday, December 28, 2015
From Shanghai Daily:
CHINA'S first domestic violence law may include emotional or psychological abuse and cover cohabitation in order to bring more traditionally silent abuse victims under protection, a new draft read.
According to the draft, which is up for a second reading at the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee's bimonthly session, "the country prohibits any form of domestic violence."
It defined domestic violence as both physical and psychological harm inflicted between family members, including beatings, injuries, restraint or forcible limits on physical liberty as well as recurring verbal threats and abuse as examples.
An earlier draft, submitted in August this year, included only physical abuse, but many lawmakers have since argued that the definition was far too narrow, said Su Zelin, deputy director with the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee.
They also argued that the anti-domestic violence law should also cover cohabitation, Su said, hence the second draft of the law stipulated in a supplementary article that those who are not related but live together are also subject to the new law.
Family violence has remained in the shadows for a long time in China, where the culture holds that family conflicts are embarrassing private matters. As a result, domestic violence victims are often too embarrassed to speak out, and in many cases, police have turned away victims who came for help.
Only in recent years have people examined the issue in the wake of increasing public awareness and media reports on high-profile abuse scandals.
Read more here.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
From Parent Herald:
According to the latest statistics published on Nov. 23, the number of couples divorcing has dramatically decreased by 2.9 percent. Experts are saying that cohabitation may have greatly affected how people think of marriage.
Most couples nowadays decide to live together first before getting married and it plays a major role in the divorce rate study since the statistics does not involve cohabitation separation, The Telegraph reported.
In a report by the DailyMail, the increase in numbers of couple living together could be the reason why many choose not to marry. They also want to avoid the headaches they will have to go through in case the marriage fails.
The amount of money involved in a divorce proceeding could be too much for many people, not to mention the difficult process of splitting up assets.
The news outlet added that most couples have to spend £20,000 for their wedding but study shows that marriage usually lasts for over 11 years, and half of marriages result to divorce. There are 118, 140 divorce cases in England and Wales in 2012 compared to the numbers in 2013 when it dramatically drops to 114, 720. The official record also explained why couples consider cohabitating instead of getting married.
"The latest data from the Office of National Statistics shows that the divorce rate has dropped. There are many possible reasons for this - the lack of availability of family legal aid may mean that people simply aren't getting the support they need to bring their relationship to a formal conclusion," The chairman of Resolution, Jo Edwards, said. "The rise in cohabiting couples, the fastest growing type of household in Britain, may also play a role - cohabitation separation is not included in these statistics."
Read more here.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
From Family Law:
Figures released today (5 November 2015) show that the cohabiting couple family continues to be the fastest growing family type in the UK in 2015.
The latest statistical bulletin, Households and Families, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows that cohabiting couple families in the UK have reached 3.2 million in 2015. This represents an increase of 29.7% between 2005 and 2015.
There were 3.1 million opposite sex cohabiting couple families and 90,000 same sex cohabiting couple families in the UK in 2015. Together, cohabiting couple families account for 17% of all families in the UK.
For opposite sex cohabiting couple families, there has been a statistically significant increase from 14% of all families in 2005 to 17% in 2015. Same sex cohabiting couple families as a percentage of all families also saw an increase over the same time period (0.3% to 0.5%).
According to Resolution, cohabiting couples currently have little legal protection when they separate. Lawyer Graeme Fraser, Resolution’s spokesman on cohabitation law, explains:
'Under current cohabitation law it’s possible to live with someone for decades and even to have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner when the relationship breaks down. This can have a huge impact on women and children, particularly in cases where a mother has given up or reduced her work to raise a family.'
Read more here.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
From The Daily Nebraskan:
Being sexually satisfied can be a priority for many adults. In fact, the decision of whether to cohabitate or marry may be a stressor if sex becomes less satisfying for a couple, depending on which they choose.
Professor Larry Gibbs, a postdoctoral research associate in the sociology department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, became interested in the topic of sexual satisfaction among heterosexual couples who are married versus those who simply cohabitate. He said this emanated from a broader discussion on relationship quality and stability.
“My team and I examined the association between sexual satisfaction and pregnancy intentions among married and cohabiting women,” Gibbs said. “Our findings were supported by prior research that marriage provides a protective sexual health effect.”
Gibbs teamed with UNL faculty, graduate students and colleagues from Oklahoma State University and Alfred University on research projects focusing on sexuality, health and family.
In a paper presented at the Population Association of America in 2015, along with colleagues from UNL, OSU and AU, Gibbs examined the association between sexual satisfaction and pregnancy intentions among married and cohabiting women.
Read more here.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
From Family Studies:
A study just out suggests that cohabitation may serve to “reposition” African-American young adults toward more positive attitudes about marriage. Ashley Barr, Ronald Simons, and Leslie Gordon Simons examined changes over time in marital attitudes in a sample of African American youth who were followed from fifth grade to when they were in their early to mid-twenties. While their methods did not allow for assessing actual transitions into marriage and marital outcomes, the authors were able to track relationships, relationship quality, transitions into cohabitation, and attitudes about marriage. Their working assumption was that cohabitation changes people regarding marriage in a number of ways, and that some of those changes might be positive. Indeed, they found that early cohabiting experiences generally led to more positive attitudes about marriage among these young African Americans.
This study is well-conceived and written, and has very strong methods. Of course, a lot of what’s important for understanding the conclusions lies in the details, so let’s dig deeper.
As Barr and colleagues note, various scholars have argued that cohabitation has become an alternative to marriage for many, perhaps especially so among African Americans. But what if, they wondered, it also changed attitudes about marriage in a positive direction for young African Americans? They worked from two theories about how cohabitation may impact marrying behavior. First, they drew on the work of Sandra McGinnis showing that cohabitation reduces both the perceived costs and benefits of marrying, but in a way that ultimately made marriage more likely. Second, they drew on the theory our team at the University of Denver has put forth: that cohabiting increases the costs of breaking up (compared to dating), making it more likely that some people marry a particular person out of “inertia,” even if relationship quality is not so great. Either theory suggests that cohabitation “repositions” people with regard to marriage. I believe this is true, yet very complicated.
Read more here.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
From The National Law Review:
In today’s society, many couples choose to live together rather than get married. This growing trend has become more common in recent years than ever before. There are a variety of possible reasons why couples choose to live together rather than get married. One factor that is likely considered is the complex legal proceedings that will occur if the couple was to get divorced. Couples that cohabitate would rather make it simple and just be able to move out rather than go through a formal divorce.
However, while cohabitating couples may think they are simplifying their lives, legally, it is important to note that they are given none of the legal protections of married couples. This is especially true in New Jersey, as common law marriages are not recognized, so cohabitating couples are actually doing themselves a disservice by not seeking out the legal protection offered in marriage. Some of the rights that unmarried but cohabitating couples lose out on include the protections provided by divorce laws, the right to make medical decisions for their partner, inheritance laws, survivor’s benefits as well as many others.
Cohabitating couples who decide to part often encounter issues and conflicts regarding the title and division of property purchased together, joint bank accounts they may have established, loans taken out together, gifts given between the parties and child custody and child support payments for children that were born of the relationship.
There is a simple solution that cohabitating couples can pursue to create legal rights for themselves: a cohabitation agreement. Similar to prenuptial agreements made prior to the marriage and settlement agreements reached during a divorce, a cohabitation agreement is a written legal document reached between a couple who have chosen to live together but are not legally married.
Read more here.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
From The National Law Review:
At the conclusion of many divorce proceedings, alimony is calculated by the court to be paid from the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse. The amount of alimony to be paid is calculated based on a variety of factors, including, among others, the length of the marriage and the martial lifestyle of the couples while married. Once calculated, alimony can typically only be modified by showing a “change in circumstances” that would warrant either the increase or decrease in alimony payments to be made. An occurrence that can be considered a “change in circumstance” is when the alimony recipient then cohabitates with another following the divorce while still receiving alimony payments.
Cohabitation situations can be frustrating to the alimony obligor (the spouse making the payments) because the alimony recipient cohabitating with another can mean two things: (1) the recipient may be using the payments to support their new partner, or (2) the recipient may be receiving financial support from their new partner in addition to the alimony received from their former spouse, essentially receiving monies from two different sources and concealing changes in their finances.
Read more here.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
From CTV News:
Cohabitating couples in British Columbia should start thinking about splitting debt and property and potentially paying out spousal support as the province rolls out new family laws.
The updated legislation, which takes effect Monday, erases the line between marriage and common law partnerships in B.C.Read more here.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
From Family Law Week:
In Gow v Grant  UKSC 29, a Scottish cohabitation case, heard in the Supreme Court, Barnoness Hale has said that lessons can be learned in England and Wales from the practicability and fairness provided by Scottish legislation.
The appeal was concerned with the meaning and effect of section 28 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 which, for the first time, enables a cohabitant to apply to the court for financial provision where the cohabitation ends otherwise than by the death of one of the parties. The court may make an order for payment by the other cohabitant of a capital sum, having regard to whether that party ("the defender") has derived economic advantage from contributions made by the applicant and whether the applicant has suffered economic disadvantage in the interests of the defender or any child. The court must then have regard to the extent to which any economic advantage derived by one party is offset by economic disadvantage suffered by that party, or economic disadvantage suffered by one party is offset by economic advantage derived by that party.
Read more here.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
From the Huffington Post:
For first marriages, people who cohabitate prior to marriage results in less positive interactions and more conflict when compared to people who do not cohabitate. However, people who cohabitate after becoming engaged look more similar to those who never cohabitate. In short, both those who never cohabitate and those who cohabitate only after becoming engaged have more positive marital relationships and are less divorce prone than those who cohabitate prior to becoming engaged. Stanley suggests that cohabitators who are not engaged drift into marriage without the same level of commitment as the other types of couples.
The researchers also found that in addition to having lower quality marital relationships, couples who cohabitated prior to engagement were also more likely to divorce when compared with the other two groups.
Read more here.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
The New Jersey Court of Appeals details a "classic palimony" case this week -- a thirty-year relationship between Rosemary Connell and Edward Diehl. Diehl had told Connell that they did not need to get married because they would simply tell everyone they were married, he would buy her a ring, and they would be together "always." They did so and few people knew that they were not legally married. Connell was disabled due to functional blindness, but contributed her disability checks and an inheritance to the family. Diehl made various investments in his own name, raised Connell's son (claiming him as a dependent on his taxes), and made estate plans leaving the majority of his estate to Connell. When the relationship soured, Connell was left destitute.
The court had no difficulty in finding the prerequisites for a palimony suit here. On the question of damages, the court recited the elements for determination of a lump-sum palimony award: "First, the judge was required to determine the reasonable future support Diehl promised to provide. That amount is to be calculated on a weekly or monthly basis. Second, the judge was required to determine the duration of future support. Third, the judge was required to reduce that period of annual future support to a present value lump sum."
The court of appeals reversed the trial court's determination of damages noting several errors:
First, the trial court had based the damages on Diehl's life expectancy rather than Connell's.
Second, the trial court did not explain its findings regarding the amount of Connell's support expenses and deducted from the damages, the value of Connell's food stamps. The court of appeals noted that any palimony award "should provide her with her minimal needs and prevent the necessity of her seeking public welfare."
Finally, as to the division of property, the trial court erred by concluding that no division of property could be made in a palimony suit. While equitable division is not proper, the trial court may divide property based on a theory of joint venture. Specifically, regarding the family home (which was in Diehl's name only but towards which Connell had contributed her $70,000 inheritance), the court of appeals directed the trial court to consider whether the facts supported a finding of a joint venture regarding that house. "If the judge finds that a joint venture existed, he must partition the home. If he concludes otherwise, a mere return of Connell's investment is not equitable. The judge must determine the present value of $ 70,000 as though it had been invested in some reasonable manner, such as certificates of deposit. Alternatively, he may determine its present value based on the appreciation in the value of the family home since it was remodeled. Otherwise, Diehl will have enjoyed the use of Connell's money without recompense. This rationale applies equally to division of the personal property in the family home. At the very least, Connell is entitled to the return of personal property she purchased with her inheritance."
Connell v. Diehl, (January 8, 2008)
Opinion online (last visited January 9, 2008 bgf)
Thursday, March 8, 2007
The Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law at American University, Washington College of Law presented a symposium titled "UNmarried . . . With Children: Evaluating Legal Constraints and Social Judgments"on February 12, 2007. Podcasts of the symposium panels, including, in the third panel, a provocative critique by WCL Professor Nancy Polikoff on the push for same-sex marriage, can be found at the following links:
(Last visited March 6, 2007 bgf)
Friday, March 2, 2007
Unmarried couples who live together in North Dakota will no longer be considered criminals after the House agreed Thursday to repeal the law that has been on books since statehood.
Read the New York Times article (last visited March 2, 2007 bgf)
Sunday, February 11, 2007
The Italian government has approved a bill to grant legal rights to unmarried couples, including same-sex partners. The highly controversial move came after months of heated debate in the broad, ruling coalition and fierce opposition from the Vatican. If parliament passes the package, unmarried couples will get greater health and social welfare benefits. But partners will enjoy inheritance rights only if they have been living together for at least nine years. The bill, approved on Thursday evening, does not go as far as the civil unions now protected by law in some other European countries.
Read the BBC Article
(Last visited February 10, 2007 bgf)