Unmarried Couple Trend Raises Vulnerability Issues

cohabitation-agreementLiving as an unmarried couple can leave you vulnerable in states that don’t honor domestic partnership agreements or civil unions. If you’re living with a domestic partner and are unmarried, you are part of a growing trend in the United States.

There were 7.7 million households with unmarried couples in 2010, growing more than 40% in just one decade, and about four times faster than the overall household population.[i] As of June 2013, seven states and Washington D.C. recognize domestic partnership agreements under state law.[ii] Michigan is not included in this list, though domestic partnerships are recognized on the municipal level in Ann Arbor.

Since laws relating to property ownership, divorce, and inheritance rights don’t apply to unmarried couples in Michigan, there are steps you can take to ensure your legal and financial preferences are protected. Some steps to consider include:

  • writing a will to ensure that your partner gets your property when you die
  • sign paternity statements to ensure that a father’s parental rights are preserved
  • create a cohabitation agreement with your partner to avoid court battles over financial support, child custody issues, dividing property, etc. if the relationship ends

Although people over the age of 65 constitute a small portion of unmarried partners, the trend is evident in that age group as well. Living together without marriage enables seniors to avoid joint liability for debts, especially for long-term care or medical bills, and to qualify individually for public benefits, such as Medicaid, without affecting the other partner’s resources.

Did you know?…The U.S. Census Bureau first began counting the number of unmarried partners in 1990 to better understand the number of residents in committed domestic partnerships.

[i] http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-14.pdf

[ii] http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/civil-unions-and-domestic-partnership-statutes.aspx