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Increasingly, those who have been divorced or widowed are opting out of second or third marriages.

However, that doesn’t mean they are ending up alone. Instead, new analysis of federal data by USA Today indicates that more often, couples are opting for cohabitation.

It’s certainly understandable, particularly following a bad experience, that people would avoid taking another plunge. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put some legal protections in place that will help to shield both of you in the event of a nasty break-up. In Brooklyn, cohabitation agreements serve to outline both parties’ rights, responsibilities and boundaries in the event of a death or break-up.

Unlike a prenuptial agreement, there is no promise or expectation of marriage – and that is just fine for a growing number of couples.

At the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, researchers say remarriage rates in the U.S. have plummeted by 40 percent over the last two decades. Researchers found that this was true regardless of age.

The data compared remarriage date from 1990 with that in 2011. Back in 1990, 50 out of 1,000 divorced or widowed persons sought remarriage. By 2011, that figure reached 29 out every 1,000 divorced or widowed individuals.

While researchers found that remarriage had become less popular for all ages, it was losing traction with those under the age of 35, where a 55 percent decline was noted among those 20 to 24. Those 25 to 34 saw a 40 percent drop.

There are believed to be two major factors here: cohabitation and older age at the time of the first marriage.

Today, the average age of a first marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men. That means that at the time of divorce or widowhood, they may be well into their 30s or 40s, and not eager to jump into a new marriage.

Cohabitation is also a major factor. When we look at what cohabitation meant a generation ago, it was akin to “living in sin.” That’s not an attitude we see much anymore.

Neither do LGBT relationships have the same kind of taboos associated with them that they did years ago. That has also played a role.

Census data from 2012 shows that there are approximately 7.8 million people cohabitating together, increasing from about 5 percent of couples in 1990 to nearly 12 percent in 2012. Of those, nearly 40 percent have been married before.

A number of couples have cited concerns about whether it’s possible to make a remarriage work. We do know that remarriages are more likely than even first marriages to end in divorce. That has people wary.

First marriages have the advantage of allowing couples to define what marriage is to them, to establish an internal culture. Second marriages tend to be harder because, with children, parents area already deeply bonded and there is a rhythm, a routine and culture that is already established. For an outsider to come in is not impossible, but it’s certainly tough.

Still, that doesn’t stop people from spending years if not decades or the rest of their lives living with their new loves.

However, there is a common misconception that long-term cohabitation simplifies things. There is a belief that if things end, they won’t need to involve lawyers or litigation or messiness. But the truth is, cohabitation, as opposed to marriage, reduces your legal rights under the law. If you share any property or debt or assets, dividing it up gets to be much tougher and, in some cases, less fair.

This is where cohabitation agreements can be so valuable. They provide the protection, without the commitment.

If you are interested in drafting a Brooklyn cohabitation agreement,, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Remarriage rate declining as more opt for cohabitation, Sept. 12, 2013, By Sharon Jayson, USA Today

More Blog Entries:

New York City Divorce Lesson’s From a Billionaire’s Split, Sept. 6, 2013, Brooklyn Cohabitation Agreement Lawyer Blog