Witcher, Phyllis H., The World and I
Phyllis H. Witcher is founder of Protecting Marriage Inc., an educational nonprofit organization focusing on marriage and divorce policy issues. She is a recognized expert and activist on divorce law.
The general public has been told that cohabitation leads to marriage. Some data suggest that cohabitation promotes divorce and often leads to disaster in the family.
Many experts want to believe that cohabitation decreases the likelihood of divorce and offer it as their central reason for supporting the arrangement. Yet by opening the opportunity to unilateral no-fault divorce, people tend to seek more divorces and choose not to marry; they are also more disposed to cohabit. The numbers in support of this situation are alarming.
There are now eight times more cohabiting, unmarried couples than there were in 1970. Since that time, the number of marriages has decreased, to the point that the United States now has its lowest marriage rate in 40 years. When such a vacuum is created, people will move to fill it with an acceptable, if less desirable, replacement.
The reason that marriage has decreased in attractiveness is changes in divorce laws. Specifically, the laws ushered in from 1970 through 1985 have made it quicker and more profitable for an individual to choose divorce and much riskier to receive one. Repeated studies, such as Leora Friedberg's in the American Economic Review (June 1998), show that this statutory change to unilateral divorce, independent of all other factors, caused the divorce rate to increase dramatically.
A person's absolute right to many privileges around marriage was expunged from our laws in 1970. When "no-fault" divorce changed the basic procedures, all defenses in court were abolished. That change has had a negative and unpredictable impact, making divorce outcomes onerous. Many people now prefer not to marry in order to …
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Publication information: Article title: Not-So-Cozy Cohabitation. Contributors: Witcher, Phyllis H. - Author. Magazine title: The World and I. Volume: 19. Issue: 3 Publication date: March 2004. Page number: 34. © 1999 News World Communications, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.
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