There are a lot of reasons to get married. In our culture, most people get married because they fall in love. Other factors that motivate people to get married are religious traditions, societal expectations and for some, financial security. But one advantage of marriage that many overlook is that if the relationship ever goes sour, the divorce process provides a legal framework to deal with the messiness of breaking up, and provides protection in the form of spousal support.
A recent article notes that many people in the baby boom generation have avoided marriage, choosing cohabitation instead. In fact, people in the United States are getting married at lower rates than ever before. Currently, more than fifty percent of children born to mothers under thirty have unmarried parents.
When unmarried couples break up, they lack many of the protections that are provided by the divorce laws. Alimony is one of the most important of these protections. When a married couple splits up, if one of the spouses earned a higher income because the other stayed home for a few years to care for young children, the courts will require the working spouse to make a monthly payment to the other, to enable that spouse to get back into the workforce. If they couple is unmarried, there is no such obligation – although if the couple has children, the noncustodial parent will still be obligated to pay child support.
Divorce is often viewed in a negative light. But it is important to remember that as a legal proceeding it serves several important purposes. It provides a legal mechanism to divide property, arrange for the custody and support of children, and provide financial protection to one spouse in the event a marriage fails.
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