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Unmarried couples with children: important new statistics

There's a certain kind of conventional wisdom not unique to Dallas by any means. That conventional wisdom says that unmarried couples who have a child together, and then go on to get married, are more likely to end up getting divorced than those who have a child within marriage.

A new report suggests that, while this wisdom may have held true for many years, things are changing. The new statistics not only highlight the dynamic nature of families today, they also serve as a reminder of the importance of working with a legal professional who stays abreast of modern developments when working to resolve family law issues. The information is intended as general in nature only and not as specific legal advice.

On the one hand, researchers studied couples who had children together between 1985 and 1995, 17 percent of whom were not married at the time. The majority of these went on to get married. However, the likelihood of their getting a divorce was more than 60 percent greater than the chances of a couple who got married first.

On the other, more recent hand, researched found that 35 percent of couples who had a baby between 1997 and 2010 were unmarried at the time -- more than twice the percentage of couples in the earlier period. Slightly fewer of these couples went on to get married, but those who did were found to have no statistically significant difference in the divorce rate compared to couples who got married first, then had a baby.

Premarital births, the study concludes, can no longer be called a predictor of divorce. The researchers did express concerns about the breakup rate among parents who never did marry, however.

In any case, couples having children together outside of marriage are in a unique legal situation. Whether they get married or not -- and even whether they stay married or not -- it is important that modern couples seek out modern legal advice when questions arise concerning child support, adoption, grandparents' rights and other family legal issues.

Source: Council on Contemporary Families, "What Happens When Couples Marry after the First Baby?," Kelly Musick and Katherine Michelmore, Sept. 16, 2015

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