March 30, 2012

Cohabitation prior to marriage no longer an indicator of divorce

Traditional data has led many sociologists and cultural experts to conclude that couples who live together before marriage are more likely to divorce. New information is coming to light, however, that could spell good news for pairs throughout Michigan who lived together before saying “I do.” Moving in before marriage is a less reliable predictor than it has been in the past.

The information comes from a marriage research project in which 22,000 men and women were surveyed. Researchers concluded that because living together before marriage is now so common, it is less likely to result in marital strife later on. About 60 percent of people live together before they marry now, whereas only about 10 percent did so in the 1960s.

An important caveat to these findings: Couples who lived together but were not engaged suffered higher divorce rates. Researchers found that engaged pairs who lived together before the wedding had similar divorce rates as those who had not lived together. Couples who were not formally committed, however, tended to divorce more often before the 10- and 15-year marks. In fact, those who were not engaged and living together were nearly 10 percent more likely to divorce. These findings support pervious conclusions.

Researchers postulate that non-engaged couples may have different attitudes about commitment, making them less optimistic about marital success. For many of these couples, cohabitation is a sort of practice for married life. The problem is, though, that many cohabitation relationships ultimately result in children and marriage, which may not have been the initial intent.

As the environment of relationships and marriage change, so do the predictors and indicators that affect a divorce. Couples who live together and get married may face different challenges in the event of a divorce. Dividing assets that were accumulated prior to the marriage may be complex. Any children that a couple shares will likely be greatly affected by a divorce and custody arrangements. Working with an attorney may help divorcing couples sort out these issues and move forward.

Source: NPR, “Moving In Before Marriage No Longer A Bad Omen?” March 22, 2012