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Study: Cohabitation, while common, doesn't foretell divorce

Ever since the 1960s, the practice of cohabitation has been on the rise. It used to be, in times past, that society tended to use cohabitation as a solid predictor of likely divorce, at least for first marriages. That view was as common in Arizona as anywhere. And there apparently was good reason for it. Divorce rates for couples who had cohabited used to be higher than average.

But there's new research from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that cohabitation itself can't be tabbed as a predictor of divorce anymore. Rather, the study says, a more telling factor may be the level of commitment as the couple enters that model of living. And we offer the observation at this point that there is added benefit to spelling out the details of such commitment through a cohabitation agreement.

According to the CDC marriage survey, in the 1960s, about 10 percent of couples moved in together before marriage and, their rates of divorce were higher than average. Today, about 60 percent of couples live together before marrying for the first time and the study finds that those couples who were engaged and lived together before marriage were about as likely as those who had not lived together to see their marriages last 15 years. That compared to a marriage survival rate of between 10 to 15 years for couples who had lived together but had not first been engaged.

The study involved interviews with 22,000 men and women between the ages of 15 to 44. They were conducted between 2006 and 2010. About 40 percent of the individuals interviewed were married.

Observers note that there are many different reasons why cohabitation is more common these days. For some committed young adults the priority may be completing their college education and getting a career started. For others, it may be the best option available due to restrictions on same-sex unions or because they are retired or widowed and in situations where their income might be eroded if they married.

Whatever the reason, if a cohabitation agreement seems worth considering, it's a good idea to look into it with the help of an experienced family law attorney.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Living together before marriage no longer predicts divorce," Mike Stobbe, AP, March 25, 2012

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