Children without marriage present unique family legal issues

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Fathers’ Rights on Friday, January 16, 2015.

According to a recent study, “Married with Children” is now more accurately a reference to the TV series than to the majority of relationships in the United States involving children. The study, conducted by the Pew Research Center, shows that less than half of children under the age of 18 live in what was once considered a “traditional” household: a mom and a dad, each in their first marriage, with children born of that marriage.

Less than 46 percent of children now live in this arrangement, compared to 61 percent in 1980. The survey finds many reasons that correlate with changes in our society contribute to the change in numbers, such as more divorces and more children born outside of marriages. The latter statistic has grown exponentially in the last five decades. According to the survey, 41 percent of the children born in the U.S. are now born into relationships other than marriage. That number was only five percent in 1960.

A breakdown of the other numbers shows that:

  • More than one-third live with a single parent
  • 15 percent live with two married parents, but one or both of the parents are remarried
  • Five percent do not live with a parent, with most of these living with a grandparent.

From a legal perspective, this variety of relationships presents a plethora of family law challenges not commonly seen in the 20th century. Just as termination of a marriage involves issues such as child custody, visitation and child support obligations, so does the end of other relationships that include children.

But marriage creates many consequences just by operation of law in Missouri that do not exist between unmarried partners. For example, married couples may legally co-own certain types of property just by virtue of the marriage, so the distribution of property when the couple isn’t married may be even more difficult than in a divorce.

While any divorce can involve multiple issues that may best be addressed with the assistance of a family law attorney, unmarried couples that have children may face even more legal hurdles. To protect the best interest of the children, having the advice of a family law attorney familiar with all types of parenting arrangements will be useful while navigating these evolving issues in our society.

Source: Boston Globe, “Married with children? Not so much,” Ami Albernaz, Jan. 12, 2015

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