The Pew Research Center has found that, since 1990, the percentage of new mothers over the age of 35 has risen by five per cent, while the percentage of unmarried mothers has jumped 11 per cent to a record 41 per cent in less than a decade.But a large number of these women, while not married, are living with the father of the child. Sometimes people say that the couple has a common-law marriage, but this misunderstands what such a marriage is. Common-law marriages are legally recognized in only nine states plus D.C.. In the states that do recognize them, there must be "a positive mutual agreement, permanent and exclusive of all others, to enter into a marriage relationship, cohabitation sufficient to warrant a fulfillment of necessary relationship of man and wife, and an assumption of marital duties and obligations," according to Black's Law Dictionary 277 (6th ed. 1990), cited at the link. Also,
Among those states that permit a common-law marriage to be contracted, the elements of a common-law marriage vary slightly from state to state. The indispensable elements are (1) cohabitation and (2) "holding out." "Holding out" means that the parties tell the world that they are husband and wife through their conduct, such as the woman's assumption of the man's surname, filing a joint federal income tax return, etc. This means that mere cohabitation cannot, by itself, rise to the level of constituting a marriage. Of course, many disputes arise when facts (such as intentions of the parties or statements made to third parties) are in controversy.I wrote a couple of long posts relevant to this topic back in 2003. Here are some excerpts. First, from, "Men, women, marriage -- or not." Not all links may still be valid.
The United States Constitution requires every state to accord "Full Faith and Credit" to the laws of its sister states. Thus, a common-law marriage that is validly contracted in a state where such marriages are legal will be valid even in states where such marriages cannot be contracted and may be contrary to public policy.
There is no such thing as common-law divorce. Once parties are married, regardless of the manner in which their marriage is contracted, they are married and can only be divorced by appropriate means in the place where the divorce is granted. That means, in all 50 states, only by a court order. [Emphases original]
Fewer and fewer weddings are taking place in a church. Relatively, more couples are being wed in civil ceremonies, conducted by secular officials. But, reports USA Today,From, "Speaking of marriage and divorce. . . ." and excerpt from Time Magazine reprinted from 2000 in July 2007, "Who needs a husband?"
While an unmarried mom and dad living together might look like the married couple down the block, unions lacking formal long-term commitments have been found more likely to create problems for kids. Sociologists cite evidence that children raised by live-in parents have a greater likelihood of emotional troubles and poor school performance. A major reason is that unmarried couples are more likely to break up.Nationwide, the marriage rate has plunged 43 percent since 1960, but cohabitation has increased tenfold in the same period. The pattern of cohabitation is dangerous. Most women agree to cohabit thinking it will lead to marriage, but most men ask women to live with them so they don’t have to marry them. Forty of every hundred cohabiting couples never marry one another. Of the sixty cohabiting couples who do marry one another, forty-five divorce within ten years.
Simply put as a general rule, women agree to cohabit and give a man sex in the hope that marriage will result. Men who cohabit do so to get sex and domestic benefits without the commitment of marriage. What’s wrong with this picture?
The negative effects of cohabitation documented by numerous studies include:
Single parents. Three out of four children born to unmarried couples see them split up before age 16, according to the National Marriage Project, a research group based at Rutgers University. The impact of growing up with a single parent is well documented by research: Children are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, become sexually active [early] and exhibit anxiety.
Dysfunctional behavior. Live-in households tend to be less stable. A cohabiting partner is three times as likely to suffer depression as a married person and twice as likely to exhibit aggressive behavior.
The Time cover story of Aug. 21, 2000 [not online, I keystroked the excerpt], reported,
Danielle Crittenden, author of What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us, argues that women have set themselves up for disappointment, many putting off marriage until their 30s only to find themselves unskilled in the art of compatibility and surrounded by male peers looking over their Chardonnays at women in their 20s. "Modern people approach marriage like it's a Bosnia-Serbia negotiation. Marriage is no longer as attractive to men," she says. "No one's telling college girls it's easier to have kids in your 20s than in your 30s." ...
Michael Broder, a Philadelphia psychotherapist and author of The Art of Living Single, decries what he calls the "perfect-person problem," in which women refuse to engage unless they're immediately taken with a man, failing to give a relationship a chance to develop. "Few women can't tell you about someone they turned down, and I'm not talking about some grotesque monster," he says. "But there's the idea that there has to be this great degree of passion to get involved, which isn't always functional. So you have people saying things like, 'If I can't have my soul mate, I'd rather be alone.' And after that, I say, 'Well, you got your second choice."