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Cohabitation still illegal in five states

More and more couples across the country are living together before deciding to marry. In the past, this was seen in a negative light but now, many believe that cohabitation is an acceptable, and possibly intelligent, move before tying the knot. Despite the fact that this is generally an accepted practice, some states (not New Jersey) still have laws in place that make it illegal.

These states, according to some, need to update their allegedly antiquated family law provisions. Many couples are living together happily, with or without being married, many of whom with children. An update to such laws may provide legal protections for those children in case the couple splits up which, regardless of marriage, does happen.

According to statistics, the percentage of people who disapproved of cohabitation in 1977 was 86 percent. Thirty years later, the percentage dropped to 27 percent. Despite approval ratings, more than half of married couples throughout the nation have lived together before getting married.

Earlier in the 20th century, reports indicate that couples were dragged to jail for living together. These people would lose custody of their children and have their social benefits taken away, simply because they decided to live with someone before marriage. Those states that still retain laws against cohabitation include Michigan and four Southern states, but no reports of associated arrests have been heard in recent years.

According to an author on the subject, cohabitation saw its rise with the sexual revolution on both the East and West coasts. It gained momentum and protections with the many social movements that occurred during the later portion of the 20th century.

New Jersey's laws do not punish cohabitating couples. However, in an era where it is not uncommon for families to move due to job relocation, it is possible that current residents could run into trouble down-the-road if they move to one of the five states that consider cohabitation a crime.

Source: AlterNet, "5 States Where 'Living in Sin' Is Illegal? America's Irrational Love Affair With the Institution of Marriage," Thomas Rogers, July 4, 2012

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