Why are less and less couples getting married? Is it because their parent’s marriages failed? Is it because they don’t see any benefit to marriage? Is it because every wedding appears to be a $20,000 extravagant country club affair? Maybe, as was written in a recent New York Times article, “…marriage has gone from being a way that people pulled their lives together to something they agree to once they have already done that independently.” There are several problems with this way of thinking. One is that children don’t wait for marriage. More and more children are born outside of marriage. This is a problem if the parents separate without ever marrying, because then (at least in Minnesota) the father has no enforceable legal rights to parenting time until he spends a significant amount of time and money to get a judge to order that he can have parenting time with the child. This is true regardless of whether the father has raised the child jointly with the mother since the child’s birth. This is a bad deal for both the father and the child as it typically significantly interrupts their relationship and causes unwarranted stress on the child. Another reason is that marriage is a financial life jacket in terms of protections for the lower earning spouse and a fair division of the assets accumulated during the marriage. This is one reason same-sex couples had been yearning for the protection of marriage until it became the law in Minnesota in 2013. Same-sex couples were not entitled to a fair division of the house or their partner’s retirement account, without access to the institution of marriage. Because it is risky financially to accumulate assets together before marriage and because marriage helps protect the father-child relationship for the benefit of child, it is risky business to delay marriage if you are having a child together or are otherwise in a committed relationship.
Unmarried and have children? You may be interested to know that “Collaborative Divorce” is not just for divorce. Learn how the collaborative process can help you. First, it may be relieving to know that you are not alone. There are some interesting recent statistics related to marriage and children. Nearly half of children in America are born outside of marriage. And, for women under 30, most children are born outside of marriage. Whether you are married or not, if you separate from the other parent, you’ll need to figure out custody, parenting time and financial support issues related to your children. These are legal issues that should be finalized in a court order, either by agreement reached in the collaborative process or mediation, or by a court decision after a trial. There is a great online resource related to unmarried parents (useful to both unmarried mothers and unmarried fathers), available here for free from Legal Services State Support. The collaborative process is designed to increase communication and trust while helping you resolve these issues. You might be interested to know that this website, collaborativedivorceoptions.com, is part of the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota and the articles are written by it’s members. Keep in mind that divorce is only one type of legal issue where the collaborative process is used. Why do I point this out? Because it’s important to know that Collaborative Law is not just for divorce. If you aren’t married but you have children, it’s important to know that you can still participate in a collaborative process rather than taking your case to court. The same collaborative principles apply whether you are married or not. In the collaborative process, you each hire attorneys trained in the collaborative process and you all sign an agreement not to go to court. Then you have a series of joint meetings where you all meet together, many times with other neutral professionals such as a coach, child specialist or financial specialist. In the end, you just file your agreement with the court rather than having a trial or other court hearings. That’s it. You never have to set foot in a courtroom and the process is structured and respectful.
The pending birth of Kim Kardashian’s first child is creating substantial media buzz. The marriage of Kim to Kris Humphries was a well publicized television event, which ended in separation days later and is now being ended by a California court. In the meantime, Kim has reputedly become pregnant by music star Kanye West., and will most likely give birth before her marriage to Kris is ended. Kim might be surprised to learn that most states in the US (including California) have adopted the Uniform Parentage Act, and could presume her baby is a child of her marriage to Kris Humphries. Under that law, children conceived during marriage and born within 300 days of a divorce can legally be presumed to be children of the husband. Kanye could agree to submit to blood tests to prove his paternity of the child, but even then the baby could simply have two presumed fathers – not one — and the court would need to conclude which presumption prevails. Kim and Kris could have avoided this public and legal mess by agreeing to resolve their differences privately through Collaborative Divorce. Collaborative Divorce is a completely private way to resolve family law disputes, through the use of inter-disciplinary professionals such as financial analysts, mental health professionals, and attorneys. It is designed to contain the cost and length of legal proceedings, and to help couples create their own solutions – the smartest possible solutions – with the help of their Collaborative Team. Good luck to Kim, Kris and Kanye! Their dispute may languish in the court system for many months to come.