Unmarried parents face unique challenges in Missouri

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Unmarried Couples on Wednesday, March 20, 2013.

Marriage is not necessarily for everyone. In fact, there are plenty of couples in Missouri who live together, share living expenses and have children, yet are not legally married. Of course, there is nothing wrong with these arrangements at all. However, when children are involved — and the parents split up — it can quickly become complicated.

For example, let’s say a couple was together for 10 years. For half of that time the father stayed home to raise the children while the mother worked at a high-powered corporate job. If the couple were married, and filed for divorce, the father may be able to receive spousal support since he was financially relying on his wife while raising the kids. Being out of the workforce for some time, it may also be harder to find employment.

But, where it gets complicated is if in the exact same scenario the couple was never married. Alimony will not come into the picture, nor will traditional marital property division. Rather, couples will have to work together in order to come to some sort of agreement, which of course can turn rather contentious rather quickly.

It should be noted this is not to say that property division and other aspects of a split are easier for married couples, it is just that there are certain legal protections afforded to married spouses.

Outside of the financial aspects of breaking up, fathers may also find it more challenging to hold on to their rights as a parent, especially in cases where paternity is yet to be established and their name is not on the birth certificate. In some cases, a mother could use this against the father in terms of making life decisions for the child without first consulting the father.

Of course though, this is not to say that unmarried parents should just accept their fate. Rather, talk with an attorney in cases where there is a breakup and children are involved. This can help to create or restore parental rights in a way that is fair to both parents and the children.

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

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