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Posted on in Family Law

IL family lawyerNowadays, many more couples in Illinois are electing to simply live together or cohabitate, rather than getting married. This suits some much more, as a cohabiting relationship can simply be ended when one or both parties feel like it, without the time and trouble of a divorce. However, there are decided negatives to living together without the protection of being in a marriage. Either way, couples should understand the ramifications of foregoing marriage and/or living in a cohabiting relationship lest they get into a situation where they have no protection.

Property Rights

One issue that can be significant if a cohabiting couple splits up is that of property rights. A married couple who decide to divorce receive the benefit of Illinois’ equitable distribution laws, which hold that upon a divorce, all marital property will be divided “in just proportions” while considering a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, the current and future earning potential of each spouse, and any alleged dissipation of marital assets (not in the sense of punishing for misconduct, but in the sense that it would be unjust to reward any waste of assets). A cohabiting couple has no “marital” property and as such, no real law to fall back on other than the simple axiom that whoever purchased an asset will, in many situations, own it.

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 Illinois divorce lawyerCohabitation is a legal concept that has been around for as long as marriage, but it has only recently begun to acquire legal significance in the last two or three decades, at least in the United States. Cohabitating is done by couples who may want to try out living together or see how they function as a unit before taking the plunge into marriage and is not a legal status. However, there are certain legal facts that one should still be aware of if they decide to cohabitate, mostly to do with support from a previous marriage.

Not True in All States

In many states, orders for maintenance can generally be modified or terminated upon a showing of a “substantial change in circumstances” - for example, if an obligor loses their job and takes a new one that only pays enough to put a roof over their head, they might ask for maintenance to be terminated or at least put in abeyance because they lack the money to pay it. This is, however, an extremely unusual situation - most of the time, spousal support can only reliably be terminated upon the recipient’s remarriage or on the death of one spouse.

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