Divorce Statistics and Living Together Before Marriage

Jodee Redmond
moving out after divorce

When you look at divorce statistics and living together, it paints a very interesting picture. In the United States, more than half of couples who get married have lived together beforehand.

Reasons for Living Together

Prior to the 1960s, living together without being married was not socially acceptable. Over time, it has become more common for couples to choose to live together, either as a step before getting married or instead of taking vows.

They may do so for a number of reasons:

  • Convenience
  • Testing the relationship to see whether they are compatible
  • Economic reasons
  • Don't believe in marriage
  • Fear of divorce

Cohabitation and Seniors

Couples aged 50 and older are living together in greater numbers than ever. According to Forbes.com, more than 1.8 million Americans in that age group are cohabiting. Ninety percent of these people have been widowed or divorced, or are separated from their spouse. Older Americans may choose to live together instead of marrying to avoid taking a cut in their Social Security payments or the survivor's annuity they receive from a former spouse's employer. Concerns about their estate not passing to their children if they remarry can also play a part in the decision to live together.

For other seniors, they may decide to live with a partner for the same kinds of personal reasons that younger people do. They may not wish to marry or remarry to avoid the possibility of getting a divorce, to keep debt separate, or simply because the don't believe in marriage.

Divorce Statistics and Living Together: The Numbers

According to statistics gathered by US Attorney Legal Services, living together before getting married doesn't accomplish the goal that couples think that it will. A couple who does not live together prior to getting married has a 20 percent chance of being divorced within five years. If the couple has lived together beforehand, that number jumps to 49 percent.

If the couple chooses to live together as an alternative to being married at all, the likelihood that the relationship will break up within five years is 49 percent. At the 10-year mark, a married couple has a 33 percent chance of breaking up. For the unmarried couple who is living together, the likelihood of a breakup is a whopping 62 percent.

Marriage After Living Together

For couples who decide to move in together, just over half of them marry within five years. Within that same time period, 40 percent of couples split up. Roughly 10 percent of them continue to live together without being married.

Reasons Why Cohabitation Doesn't Improve Chances of Marital Success

People who decide to live together may do so with the expectation that it will help them determine whether they will have a successful marriage with their partner. Divorce statistics and living together show that this is not the case. People who decide to live with a partner may also be more likely to divorce if they are unhappy with the relationship after taking vows, since they may have less conservative views of marriage.

During the time the couple lives together, they know that the situation may not be permanent. They divide bills and property in terms of "yours" and "mine," but don't necessarily have the notion that assets belong to both of them. Living together may be more stressful than being married, due to the lack of stability. Even if the couple ultimately decides to make their relationship legal, they may not have developed the foundation they need for a successful marriage.

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Divorce Statistics and Living Together Before Marriage