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3 documents you may need if you are unmarried

According to recent statistics, the current rate of marriage in the U.S. has declined to roughly 50 percent. At the same time, the number of people who live with a partner and/or raise a child outside of marriage is increasing.

If you are part of this group, then you might assume your unmarried status shields you from the legal complexities of divorce. While you may be partially correct, there are still legal issues that can arise in any type of relationship involving kids or cohabitation. As such, there are a few documents you may want to complete in order to protect yourself.

Cohabitation agreement

This type of agreement can be the one thing that protects you and helps you avoid costly legal disputes if you end a cohabitation arrangement. A cohabitation agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement in that it allows unmarried couples to set rules, identify property and make arrangements for property division in the event that the relationship ends.

Paternity orders

Establishing paternity of a child is critical when parents are not married and there are a few ways to do this. You might receive a court order or sign Certificate of Parentage; paternity can also be presumed through various actions, including marriage of the parents.

Powers of attorney

If your partner gets very sick or passes away, then you may not be authorized to collect certain benefits, access his or her financial accounts or make medical decisions on his or her behalf if you are not married. To protect yourselves and ensure you have legal permissions and benefits similar to a married couple, you can assign each other powers of attorney. Someone with power of attorney has the authorization to act and make decisions on your behalf.

Unmarried does not have to mean unprotected

These and other documents can ensure you and your partner are protected if your relationship should end. Breaking up may not seem as upsetting as a divorce, but it can be far more complicated and painful than you expect. Having these protections in place can help to minimize the potential for family legal disputes and shield you from certain financial ramifications

Source: Pew Research Center, "As U.S. marriage rate hovers at 50%, education gap in marital status widens," Kim Parker and Renee Stepler, Sept. 14, 2017

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