Over the last 50 years, relationship patterns have evolved. Those shifts have changed family law, including how couples resolve property division, child custody and spousal support issues in the event of a divorce. Another change is the increase in cohabitation prior to marriage.

Fifty years ago only about 10 percent of couples in Georgia and elsewhere lived together before marriage. Nowadays roughly 60 percent of couples cohabitate before marriage.

A number of potential explanations have been suggested for the shift. For example, societal attitude toward commitment may be more relaxed. Others may know they will marry their partner but put it off while pursuing an advanced degree.

In the past, that choice carried a higher risk of divorce. However, a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that may have changed. The study, which collected and analyzed data from 22,000 men and women from 2006 to 2010, indicates that couples that established clear engagement plans before moving in together stayed together at the same rate as couples who did not live together first. In both cases, about 60 percent of couples stayed together for 15 years.

Unlike couples that moved in together after creating concrete engagement plans, couples that cohabited before getting engaged, but that ultimately got married, were slightly more likely to divorce. A little less than half of these couples divorced within 15 years.

In the event of divorce or dissolution, the amount of time the couple lived together before marriage may matter. An experienced family law attorney can help couples find creative options to resolve the parental and financial challenges of divorce for couples that cohabitated prior to marriage.

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune, "Cohabitation not signal for divorce," April 4, 2012