For Texas couples who cohabitate but don’t make their relationship official via marriage, matters can be complicated when they split up, especially if children are involved. Statistics show that couples with children 10 years old or younger are more than twice as likely to separate if they haven’t formalized their relationship. The tradition of marriage apparently still means something to people, according to one marriage counselor interviewed for a recent piece. Couples in a traditional marriage not only are more likely to express a desire to stay with their partner, but they often talk about wanting to save the marriage.

A lack of a commitment means there is often the sense that one person can leave with few consequences. One 36-year-old filmmaker put it this way: Couples need to marry first before they can divorce.

Another 37-year-old man also expressed similar views. He didn’t value the tradition of marriage and had no desire to ever formalize a romantic relationship. After he met his girlfriend, she soon became pregnant, and even then, they didn’t talk about making the arrangement official. The man elaborated that his parents were divorced, his mom was married three times and his dad was gay. However, he began reconsidering his views when he and his girlfriend broke up when their baby was 18 months old. He thinks that the commitment of marriage might have motivated him to work harder on his relationship. The separated couple still struggles with custody issues due to changing work schedules. In addition, alimony is a factor. At one point, his ex-partner found an attorney who helped them with some financial issues. He added it would be easier if he wrote her a monthly check for expenses.

A break-up is emotionally draining in any situation. A family attorney might be able to help couple navigate the stormy waters of ending a relationship as they work out issues such as alimony and visitation.

Source: New York Observer, “No Divorce Is the New Divorce: Moms and Dads Navigate Messy Breakups in Marriage-less World,” Rose Surnow, March 19, 2013