Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Marriage, Relationships and Divorce Laws in Today's Society
In this day and age, we can no longer even pretend that families on TV shows such as Leave it to Beaver and The Brady Bunch represent the American norm. Many couples live together without being married; gay and lesbian couples are increasingly open about their relationships and have begun to demand the same legal rights as straight married couples. Some same-sex couples have formalized their relationships in civil unions or domestic partnerships or even by getting legally married where such unions are legal, while others have flouted the law and gotten married in civil ceremonies. According to the 2000 U .S. Census, unmarried couples heterosexual and same-sex now represent 11 million households, an increase of more than 72 percent since 1990!
Although family law, the kind of law that deals with marriage, divorce, and parent children relationships is still largely based on a traditional definition of family, the societal changes we're experiencing are forcing our legal system at all levels to rethink its assumptions about the rights and obligations that come with certain personal relationships. For example, our legal system has to answer hard questions about what's fair when it comes to divorce, whether unmarried heterosexual couples should have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples, and what rights and responsibilities gay and lesbian couples should be given. Should they be allowed to enter into domestic partnerships or civil unions? Should they be allowed to marry just like heterosexual couples? Because of these and many other issues, family law is in great flux.
Laws That Affect Your Daily Life
As many of us know from personal experience, you can never guarantee that close personal relationships will be trouble free, or that, if there's trouble in paradise , the people involved will be able to resolve their differences with a minimum amount of angst and damage to their pocket books. If however, you understand how family law affects your legal rights and responsibilities before you get married, file for divorce, start a family, take a live in lover, and so on, you 'll have a greater appreciation for the legal implications of what you 're about to do. You'll also have a better understanding of the steps you can take to minimize the potential for legal and financial problems down the road.
Love No Longer Equals Marriage
Remember the popular old song about how love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage? That pretty picture isn't necessarily true anymore. Although couples who are in love and who want to be together are still most likely to get formally married, many opt just to live together. Others become informally married in states where common law marriages are legally recognized. (For more on common law marriages, see the sidebar "We're married because we say we are."
How you structure your relationship affects your legal and financial obligations both while you're together and (heaven forbid) after you split up. Given that marriage is a time honored tradition that the law continues to view as a relationship to be promoted and supported, the rights and responsibilities that married couples have to one another during and after marriage are very well defined. The law is much less clear when it comes to other kinds of live in relationships; therefore, when you're madly in love with someone and are certain that you 'll live "happily ever after," it's important that you understand the implications of getting married versus just living together. Unfortunately, many of us don't gain a true appreciation for the legal pros and cons of each option until our relationships fall apart.
Although some changes are being made, in most states, if you live in an unmarried relationship with someone, neither of you have any automatic legal rights or responsibilities to the other while you're together or after you split up.
You and your partner can, however, voluntarily give yourselves rights and responsibilities, including many of the ones that automatically come with marriage, in a legally binding cohabitation agreement. Get a family attorney's help.