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How couples handle divorce in a marriage-less America

Due to decreased rates of marriage in Florida and the United States, a situation is emerging among unwed couples deciding to separate. Because they were never legally married, they can't initiate divorce proceedings. Although courts and legal firms handling family law can get involved, couples have a harder time establishing baselines. This makes it extremely difficult when children are involved and the need to establish child custody and support arise.

University of Michigan research reveals almost 70 percent of co-habitating, unwed couples separate by the time their child is 10 years old. Ex-companions can utilize law firms to establish custody rights, spousal support or property division; however, there's no guarantee the other party will accept the guidelines. In some cases, situations get so caustic that resolution takes place in a Family Court.

The effects in this dynamic can be damaging to both the partners and the child involved. In addition to the uncertainty of parenting support or economic assistance, the consequences to the child can be long-lasting. Research conducted by the nonpartisan group Child Trends states children born to unwed parents experience multiple changes in living arrangements as opposed to those who reside with a married couple who divorces. In addition, children who are part of a co-habitating arrangement experience increased bouts of aggression and depression as they get older.

Situations where child support is required, regardless if married or not, can be mitigated with assistance by law firms and courts. For instance, the amount of child support provided is determined by statutory guidelines under Florida law. If a spouse refuses to work, the courts may intervene, ordering payment of the amount they could earn if gainfully employed.

Source: The New York Observer, "No Divorce Is the New Divorce: Moms and Dads Navigate Messy Breakups in Marriage-less World," Rose Surnow, March 19, 2013

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Stephen T. Holman, P.A.
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