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More couples choosing to cohabitate, but remain unmarried

In Georgia and in other parts of the country, more and more couples are choosing to live together without getting married. More couples stay happily unmarried, by Gracie Bonds Staples, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 11, 2012. According to a recent article on ajc.com, a New York based marketing communications agency conducted a survey, which found that 45% of never-married women and 68% of never-married men prefer a long term, committed relationship to marriage. This is, in part, due to the fact that moral judgments about cohabitation have largely disappeared. In addition, women’s gains in education and the workplace combined with an economy that values communication and negotiation skills (values more predominant among women) have made marriage non-essential for many people.

Living together without being married can legally mean different things in different states. Unfortunately in some states, such as Georgia, cohabitating partners have no legal benefits. Georgia does not recognize domestic partnerships or common law marriage, unless it was legally entered into prior to January 1, 1997. OCGA §19-3-1.1. Thus, parties in Georgia who choose to live together without legally marrying cannot divorce.What this means, practically speaking, is that neither party will be entitled to alimony or equitable division of assets if the relationship falls apart. A court will, therefore, not get involved and the parties will have to work everything out on their own. This could be particularly problematic if the parties own property together and have other joint assets, such as bank accounts, or if one party was the primary “bread winner” while the other party chose not to work. These are all issues you should think about, and possibly discuss with your partner, if you choose to cohabitate without getting married.

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