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Dr. Helen

Does Living Together Before Marriage Really Cause Divorce?

March 11th, 2014 - 5:15 am

An article from the Christian Science Monitor discusses how social scientists have been studying the wrong variable when it comes to cohabitation and divorce:

For years, social scientists have tried to explain why living together before marriage seemed to increase the likelihood of a couple divorcing. Now, new research released by the nonpartisan Council on Contemporary Families gives an answer:

It doesn’t. And it probably never has. …

As it turns out, those studies that linked premarital cohabitation and divorce were measuring the wrong variable, says Arielle Kuperburg, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, who produced much of the research released Monday. The biggest predictor of divorce, she says, is actually the age at which a couple begins living together, whether before the wedding vows or after.

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All Comments   (13)
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Practicing law without a license? Are you kidding me? I don't practice law. I sell real estate, but I have to know the law in order to do that. What do you think these continuing educations classes are all about? Legal updates.

It's my job to give advice to my clients. Some guy comes to me wanting to sell his house or buy a new one. I have to ask him if he's married. Even if he is getting a divorce, it doesn't matter. He cannot buy or sell a house without his wife's signature.

Did he have a live-in lover? All she had to do is walk out the door and file a document in the county clerk's office. At that point, they're married. And she is legally entitled to half of everything. He cannot buy or sell a house without her signature, if she comes forward and claims common law, okay, fine, informal marriage if you want to be specific. That's the law.

The legally informed reader can only draw the conclusion that I am right. If he or she is legally informed. You obviously are not, Areo, since you don't have any knowledge of or work under the law. I have clients. I have to advise them of the law regarding real estate.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, Palto, we're looking at your complete inability to read and understand the statute that you copy and paste.

In Texas, if you live together, if you share money and property, if she does chores, if you present yourselves as a couple, you're married. When she leaves, as she will, all she has to do is go down to the county clerk and file a document claiming common law. Okay, fine, informal marriage. Within two years. At that point, she is legally entitled to half of everything. You can't even buy or sell a house without her signature. That's the law.

Ever tried to sell a house to a man in the middle of a divorce? You can't, not without his soon-to-be ex-wife's signature. If she doesn't sign, he can't buy, not until the divorce is finalized. And if she does, all she has to do is move in and change the locks. It's her house. You cannot evict your wife even if you are getting a divorce.

Ever tried to sell a house for a man and his former live-in lover shows up from out of nowhere and claims common law? She is legally entitled to half the equity, if a court determines they did have an informal marriage. And they will, if she filed a document to that effect. He can't sell it without her signature, even if he's married to another woman at the time. That's the law.

I sell real estate, and I have had to actually dealt with these situations. And I know the law because I have to in order to sell real estate.

This is why I advise men who had a live-in lover to go to the county clerck's office and file for a divorce the day she walks out. It's a simple document, costs about $60. But it saves you a lot of grief and money down the road.

What an idiot you are. You can copy and paste statutes, but you can't even read and understand them. I live in the real world. I have to make deals under these statutes. It's the law, and I have to know it, or I don't make any money.

Maybe you don't like my comments. But WTF are you? You can't even understand the statute you copied and pasted.

50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"This is why I advise men who had a live-in lover to go to the county clerck's office and file for a divorce the day she walks out."


Kind of sounds like "practicing law without a license". As for the rest, I think the legally informed reader can draw his own conclusions about your post.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, Palto, cute screen name by the way, do you live in Texas?

Or did you just look something up on the Internet without being able to understand it?

Do you have a friend in Texas that lived with a woman that moved out, came back years later and demanded half of everything, because she claimed they were married by common law?

Have you ever had to negotiate a real estate transaction for a house owned by a man who lived with a woman, who demanded half of everything because she claimed they were married by common law?

I didn't think so.

Look at your idiocy. Yeah, Texas law has a three-prong test for determining a common law or, if you insist, an informal marriage. 1. an agreement to be married--they did that when they shared money, property, and chores. 2. cohabitation--the did live together. 3. representation to others--if you introduce her as your wife, you're married, but the mere appearance in public as a couple will suffice.

So, a man and a woman share moeny, property and chores, they live together, and they present themselves in public as a couple. By the statute you quoted, the have an informal marriage, in other words they are married by common law.

She moves out and files for common law, informal marriage. Yes, she does have a two year window of opportuntity to do that, but what if she does? What if she moves out, goes down to the county court, files a claim, and comes back years later to claim half of everything?

They did share money, property, and she did do chores. They did live together. They did present themselves in public as a couple, whether he introduced her as his wife or not. They're married by common law, or informally if you want to be particular.

Still, she is entitled to half of everything by law, and every court will give it to her.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, at least you're looking at the actual law now. You wouldn't even acknowledge that in our last round on this.

50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, I don't think the age at which a couple starts living together before marriage is an indication of whether they will divorce or not. What is the correlation between couples who didn't cohabitate and got divorced, and those who did cohabitate and got divorced? I suspect the divorce rate is about the same.

The problem here is with the law. The easier you make it to get divorced the harder you make it to stay married. It's that simple.

Back in the 70s, in the age of Free to be You and Me, and the Brady Bunch, it was like half of the kids in high school had parents who were getting divorced. The women suddenly felt the need to be liberated from the oppression that is the patriarchy that is marriage. And the kids suffered for it.

If you want to cohabitate, fine. But maintain separate bank accounts and detailed records and receipts that can prove in a court of law that you each paid half of all expenses--rent, utilities, groceries, etc. After she moves out, and she will, that's the only way you can demonstrate you were not married by common law. If you share property, if you share money, if she performs sweat equity--cooking, cleaning, chores--and you don't, you're married, buddy. All she has to do is walk down to the county clerk's office and claim common law, even years after she walked out the door. That makes her legally entitled to half of everything--income, assets, property--from the day she moved in to present. How is that any different from a divorce? It's not.

But there is a simple solution to this predicament. The day she moves out go down to the county clerk's office and divorce yourself. It's just a form and a fee, about $60. As long as it's filed at the courthouse, she doesn't have a claim to anything.

Unfornately, this option is not available in a marriage situation.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
People who marry young or live together young (and then marry) are equally likely to divorce. Trying to establish a long-term relationship at age 19 doesn't work well.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
GawainsGhost likes to post this stuff about common law marriage.

Here are some facts:

Not all that many states have common law marriage anymore.

Here is the rundown in GawainGhost's state (Texas):

Texas: calls it an "informal marriage," rather than a common-law marriage. Under § 2.401 of the Texas Family Code, an informal marriage can be established either by declaration (registering at the county courthouse without having a ceremony), or by meeting a three-prong test showing evidence of (1) an agreement to be married; (2) cohabitation in Texas; and (3) representation to others that the parties are married. A 1995 update adds an evidentiary presumption that there was no marriage if no suit for proof of marriage is filed within two years of the date the parties separated and ceased living together.

And here is a link to the actual statute in Texas:

The parties have to agree to be married and have to present themselves outwardly as married. Even the man has to agree to be "married" for a common law marriage in Texas.


I'm providing this information not because I'm an advocate for marriage - I'm not - or because I'm a woman hoping to trap men - I'm not - in fact I think marriage is the stupidest thing a man can do. I just don't think false facts and scare stories help our "side". When I see feminists just making up statistics as they go along, I just tune out. Many will do that if MRAs start making up "facts" as they go along.
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50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I always assumed it was yet another correlation does not equal causation example: people who are more apt to live together without getting married first would also likely have less moral qualms about divorce. I.e. if they don't have a moral problem with co-habitation then they likely won't have a moral problem with divorce. While those that would have a moral problem with living together would also likely have a moral problem with divorce, and seek to avoid it.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
The studies are still getting it wrong. The variable they should look at, particularly where children are involved, is a breakup. That's the flip side of the 'marriage is just a piece of paper' argument. It that's all it is, then a breakup can be as painful, traumatic, or destructive for those who don't marry.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I remember there were studies decades ago showing that people who lived together first were more likely to get divorced if they got married later on.

The thing that struck me back then (in the 1980s) was that living together was still considered "strange" back then - my parents, as an example, were not sure what to make of it when I lived with a woman and didn't marry her - and so people who lived together were more likely not to care what "society" thought. They were therefore also more likely to not give a rat's behind about keeping up appearances later on if they wanted to divorce. Frankly, divorcing openly was probably better than continuing an unhappy marriage, but many people put a high value on appearing a certain way to others.

Today, there is less stigma about living together without marriage.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good job, Palto. On men's forums in the past I have researched and shared similar info about subjects for which there seemed to be a lot of folklore.

Common-law marriage is one of the worst examples. People really believe that in every state shacking up for seven years = common-law marriage. People believe that even about states in which cohabitation was always illegal, as if cohabiting long enough suddenly became okay and meant your status had changed.

Other examples of demonstrable folklore include the persistent notion in some MRA quarters that girls routinely married at age 13–14 100+ years ago. Nothing supports this: quite the contrary. Believing and disseminating this do not do men's causes any favors. Instead it makes the culprit MRAs look like wannabe pedophiles.

Another: the sick notion that boys sexually abused by adult women—e.g., teachers—somehow "got lucky" or "got what they wanted anyway". This has led to widespread apathy about the problem of sexual abuse of boys and incredible leniency toward female pervs. The "men" who say "the boy simply got lucky" never seem to say that after their own minor son becomes a victim...

It's possible to continue, but you get the point.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Other examples of demonstrable folklore include the persistent notion in some MRA quarters that girls routinely married at age 13–14 100+ years ago."--KMan1

I haven't encountered those "MRA quarters" of yours. I avoid the neo-feminist groups that claim to be MRAs.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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