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Study says rising cohabitation and falling divorce could affect kids

A recent report released by the Institute for American Values and the National Marriage Project has indicated that more couples are deciding to have children out of wedlock in states across the country. Individuals affiliated with these institutions believe that the decision to do this may stem from people's hope of avoiding divorce. The report, however, argues that children who live with unmarried parents may experience less stability in their lives.

According to the study, cohabitation can pose a threat to family lives. The researchers behind the study believe that living situations in which adults are cycling in and out of a home may pose a greater threat to the livelihood of children than divorced parents.

The National Survey of Family Growth found that 42 percent of children have lived in a cohabiting home by the age of 12. Nearly a quarter of children have resided with divorced parents, according to the organization. According to the study performed by the National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values, children who live with cohabitating adults are more likely to drop out of high school, experience depression, and are more likely to abuse drugs.

While the evidence that supports these findingsis not entirely clear, the legal implications of a split between unwed couples can be quite complex. With no legal ties to one another, spouses may not be entitled to the same rights as those of a married couple.

Divorcing couples are often required to split assets obtained during a marriage, and spousal support also factors in. However, those who are unmarried do not always have the right to seek assets or alimony from a partner, no matter what their living situation was. If one partner in an unwed relationship is left out to dry, it could have negative consequences for any children involved. While everyone is free to choose the relationship path best suited to their lifestyle, the potential implications of a break-up may be something unwed couples might want to consider.

Source: The New American, "Cohabitation Has Replaced Divorce as Biggest Threat to Children," Dave Bohon, Aug. 18, 2011

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