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No higher divorce risk following out-of-wedlock births

Colorado couples may be interested to learn that according to a recent study by the Council on Contemporary Families, having a child before getting married does not increase the chances that the couple will divorce later. The study, which used research from couples whose first child was born between 1997 and 2010, compared data to that of couples who had their first child between 1985 and 1995. The study found that while the older group had a 60 percent higher chance of getting divorced, in the newer group, there was no difference between couples who had a child before or after wedlock.

There was an exception among couples that never married. In that group, 30 percent separated within five years of the child's birth.

Researchers said that they thought the growing acceptance of having children outside of marriage was partially responsible. The number of couples doing so grew from 17 percent in the first group to 35 percent in the second. Because the stigma is lessened, couples no longer feel they must rush into marriage. The study did find that couples who lived together without marriage tended to have lower incomes and less education, but the study controlled for those variables.

Parents who are unmarried and separating still have to work out child custody, support and visitation. Whether or not they are married, parents who are splitting up may wish to consult their respective attorneys to work out these issues. Unmarried parents may feel that they can work with an informal agreement, but they might want to consider making one that is legally binding. If changes are needed later, the agreement can be modified, and it may protect parents and children in case one parent ceases to pay support. Agreements may be negotiated outside of court, but in a divorce, couples who cannot agree may need to turn to litigation.

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Cooper, Tanis & Armas, P.C.
42 Garden Center
Broomfield, CO 80020