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Differences Between Marriage and Cohabitation

Published on March 8th, 2019

Family Lawyers Bloomington, IL

Many people believe that living together, or cohabitating seems like a logical step before deciding to get married or when skipping marriage altogether. If it does not work out, they part ways and that’s that, right? It is not that simple if you have been together for any length of time and decide to part ways. You may have a lease or bought a home in both your names, have children together, share finances, or are involved in each other health care directives. Is there that big of a difference in living with someone for years and marriage? Actually, legally there is a big difference.

Here is a comparison of important issues concerning marriage and cohabitation:

  • Requirements for MarriageThese are different from state to state but generally, a license is required, including a waiting period, blood test, legal age determinations, and some sort of ceremony performed by an officer of the court or clergy with witnesses.
  • Cohabitating — does not have any specific requirements and can be done by anyone, of any gender or age.
  • Ending a Marriagemust be done through a legal process of divorce or annulment. It can involve expensive legal costs, can get emotional, and take a considerable amount of time.
  • Ending CohabitationIn most situations, no legal involvement, but can be as emotionally draining as ending a marriage.
  • Property Division in a Divorce — There are set legal methods to dividing property after a divorce.
  • Property Division at the End of Cohabitation — Parties can divide property however they agree to do so. This may sound simple, but with the absence of any legal stipulations, if there are disagreements, it could get difficult.
  • Spousal Support in a Divorce — the divorce decree may provide for the higher-earning spouse to financially support the other one.
  • Financial Support at the End of CohabitationAfter splitting up, couples are not under any legal obligation to provide financial support to each other unless they have a written contract that says otherwise. Without a legal contract, the partner who was used to being financially supported may be forced to find other means of earning income to make up for the lost support.
  • Health Care and Finance Decisions When Married — In health care decisions, if one spouse becomes incapacitated, the other spouse has the right to make decisions on behalf of the ill spouse. This includes decisions finances and health care.
  • Financial or Health Care Decisions when CohabitatingUnless a health care directive or power of attorney is in place giving their partner the right to make decisions on their behalf, the cohabitor may have to yield to a relative. Legally, it does not matter how long you have been together unless these documents are in place, decisions regarding health care should your partner become ill or incapacitated will be made by an immediate family member.
  • When a Spouse Dies During a Marriage — The living spouse has a legal right to part of the estate of the deceased spouse.
  • When a Cohabitant Dies Unless the cohabitor is named in the deceased’s will, they will have no claim to any part of the estate. If there is no will, the estate will go to the deceased’s family members.

Consult a Family Law Attorney

If you have questions concerning your legal rights when cohabitating or married, contact family lawyers Bloomington, IL relies on to discuss the pros and cons of marriage versus cohabitating.

Thanks to Pioletti Pioletti & Nichols for their insight into family law and the difference between marriage and cohabitation.

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