Does living together before marriage heighten the risk of a marital breakup and divorce? Many relationship experts believe premarital cohabitation increases the odds of future marital trouble.

With over 50 percent of marriages beginning with cohabitation, studying the impact that living together has on marriages may be more important than ever.

Timing of the Cohabitation

One important factor in determining the impact that living together can have on a marriage is the timing of the cohabitation. When a couple starts to live together before becoming engaged, the risks of the marriage ending are significantly higher.

Experts believe some couples that cohabitate before an engagement simply “slide” into marriage due to inertia, lack of opportunities to meet other partners, or fear of wasting the investment they have made by moving in together. It becomes easier to stay together and get engaged than to stop living together. It is likely the individuals would not have gotten married if they had not initially lived together.

Engaged couples who move in together appear to have a lesser risk for later marital discord. With overall better communication skills, better relationships, and more confidence in their union, couples who wait to move in until being formally engaged are less likely to face a divorce in the future.

Not Merely Stigma

In the past, prominent marriage experts reported the premarital cohabitation effect was due in part to the stigma attached to living together before marriage. Today, the stigma associated with couples living together has been greatly reduced, even among families who consider themselves at least somewhat “religious.” Yet the premarital cohabitation effect does not seem to have been significantly impacted by this.

Short Term vs. Long Term Risks

Research indicates that living together prior to marriage increases the risk of a divorce for marriages lasting longer than a year. At the one-year mark, the premarital cohabitation effect is relatively weak or even nonexistent.

Marriage experts believe couples who lived together prior to marriage have an easier first year than other couples, as they have already addressed the challenging issues that can emerge when couples first begin to live together.

In the short term, the risk of divorce for couples that lived together prior to marriage can be significantly less than for couples who did not live together. That begins to change the longer the couple has been married.

Other factors

Other factors have been identified to explain the increased risk of divorce associated with living together before marriage. These include:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • Religious beliefs
  • Family marital history
  • Ethnicity
  • Age at the time of cohabitation
  • The presence of minor children
  • Educational levels of the involved individuals

Regardless of whether an engaged couple decides to cohabitate before the marriage, or wait until after their vows to move in together, the drafting of prenuptial agreements can be an important step during an engagement.

With offices located in Marlton and Somers Point, New Jersey, an experienced Marlton divorce lawyer can assist in drafting a prenuptial agreement throughout South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, and Atlantic County. To set up a free consultation, call 856-751-5505 or submit an online inquiry form.