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Non-marriage leads to non-traditional "divorces"

In Massachusetts and other states in the union, more and more couples are foregoing traditional marriage for more free-form relationships. Though often seen as a more flexible, and thus more likely to endure, the ending of these non-binding unions creates unique problems. Traditional areas of divorce dispute, such as division of assets, child support obligations and alimony become much trickier when there is no legal union to begin with.

Couples who have in long-term relationships often only see the benefits of marriage after things have dissolved. As one man who went through the confusing process of a break-up stated, "It's helpful to get married if you want to get divorced." Couples who have been raising a child together are often adrift after a non-marriage split because the traditional child support guidelines don't apply. One couple employed a lawyer to help them deal with the financial aspects, ultimately setting up a joint bank account.

In a more traditional setting, attorneys can also be helpful in negotiating and crafting a satisfying child support arrangement. In Massachusetts, courts often use the best interests of the child in determining what is fair. In order to be eligible for child support, regardless of the marriage situation, one must be the custodial parent, establish the paternity of the other party and also know the whereabouts of the other parent.

The dissolution of non-marital relationships can be confusing for children, regardless of the legal ramifications. And regardless of one's relationship status, what is best for the children involved should always be the guiding force.

Source: New York Observer, "No Divorce Is the New Divorce: Moms and Dads Navigate Messy Breakups in Marriage-less World," Rose Surnow, March 19, 2013

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