Cohabitation Break-Ups Can Be As Messy As Divorce

Do you consider living with your significant other a great way to lower your rent and increase your amount of time spent fornicating? Allow USA Today to point out the cracks in your dirty love shack. Apparently when unwed couples live together it isn't all shared Netflix subscriptions and shower sex — sometimes people also form deep, loving attachments that can make breaking up every bit as sucky as a divorce! (Well, minus the regret over shelling out thousands for the ill-fated wedding.)

We weren't as shocked by this concept as the folks at USA Today, but it seems the heinousness of being forced out of the crappy apartment you shared has given rise to new legal battles. In a survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers , 48% of respondents said they've seen a spike in court cases in the past few years, and 39% reported that the number of cohabitation agreements is rising. About 30% are drawn up for gay couples who may not be able to marry, but the rest are for heterosexual couples. While people often seen living together as a way to enjoy the benefits of marriage without the legal entanglements, that isn't always the case.

Like a prenuptial agreement, cohabitation agreements typically outline partner's separate property, debts, and financial responsibilities and explain how assets will be divided if things go south. They're unusual among people in their 20s, but increasingly common for cohabitating couples in their mid-30s and up who may buy a home together or have children. Linda Lea Viken, president of the matrimonial lawyer's group, says, "They basically don't have a protection under law, so the only protection they have is under contract for division of finances and property."

Even though moving out can be as devastating as a divorce both emotionally and financially, others may not see it that way. Psychologist Kristen Wynns says friends and family often don't know how to react to the split:

"There's not the same sympathy and support, because there's some implied indication from our society that marriage is more important than a long-term (cohabiting) relationship."

Clinical psychologist Janet Laubgross adds that not needing a divorce means you can't cry onto the shoulder of your lawyer's pricy suit:

"In some ways, having that legal support is like a support system and gives you an outlet. It's somebody to hear your story, to support your point of view. You have a lawyer — somebody to say, 'This is real. This is significant. This is a big deal ,, If you're just 'cohabiting,' we don't have that extra piece."

All of this doesn't mean people shouldn't cohabitate, they should just be aware that sometimes "living in sin" isn't as carefree and sexy as it sounds. Whether you're married, living together, or just dating and sharing custody of The Wire DVDs, break-ups hurt, and sometimes incur steep legal fees.

When Unmarried Couples Split, Complications Follow [USA Today]

Earlier: Living In Sin Can End In Hell