As of 2011, the average marriage age for couples was at an all-time high and cohabitation has doubled since the 1990’s. Even though these trends are well-acknowledged and reported, it does raise the question of whether this has been a good or a bad thing when it comes to legal rights and ending the relationship. Marriage is not the right choice for everyone, so it’s important to consider these potential issues that could impact a couple living together.

While the laws in Arizona and elsewhere outline what happens when a couple divorces, not having the legal protections in place can make for a lot of problems if a cohabitating couple decides to split. Read on to learn more about some of the problems that could arise if an unmarried couple living together decides to end the relationship.


Building a home together means combining two lives and a lot of property. If the relationship ends, the couple may have to determine what to do with the various property on their own. Both parties might not agree on items that were purchased together or given as gifts, which can make a breakup all the more difficult. Parties might want to consider establishing rules about property during the course of the relationship, sometimes referred to as “Cohabitation Agreements.” While this conversation is not an easy one, it can help to establish guidelines for what happens to that property if the relationship ultimately ends.  Property disputes between non-married partners is generally resolved in the Civil Court division of the Court.

Children and Pets

This can be one of the most difficult determinations after a couple splits. Having children or pets together requires careful consideration of what is in the best interests of all parties. The couple may have to get legal advice on the best way to approach a parenting plan. Certainly, no one plans on the relationship ending when pets or children are involved, but thinking ahead and working with an Arizona family law attorney can help to address some of the main concerns you might be thinking about when the relationship has come to a close.  Because the Family Court will ultimately decide issues pertaining to Children, it is possible to see parties litigating property matters in one division of the Court and child-related issues in the Family Court.


While child support can still be ordered for a party who has a legal obligation to a child or children, cohabitation does not allow for alimony unless the parties have separately signed their own agreement supporting this. Bear in mind that many of the standard legal protections offered by marriage are not immediately available unless the parties in a cohabitation setup have agreed to it on their own. With more couples living together and opting out of marriage, a cohabitation agreement can help to clarify things.

Benefits of a Cohabitation Agreement

Without marriage, a cohabitation agreement might help parties to consider primary concerns about the relationship and how they handle issues like finances. Putting this in writing can eliminate confusion and reduce the possibility for hurt feelings and anger. While it might not be easy to start a conversation by suggesting the benefits of a cohabitation agreement, both partners might be able to rest easier knowing that they have confronted these difficult issues. For more complex concerns about how to handle family law issues, consult with an Arizona family law attorney.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding The Challenges of Cohabitation, , or other family law issues,  please feel free to contact our Family Law Section at  480.461.5300, log on to,  or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.