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DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES: What is with the trend of younger people choosing not to marry?

In this month’s Different Perspectives, Certified Family Law Specialist, Don Schweitzer, and Family Law Attorney, Nitasha Khanna, discuss their different views on the current trend of young adults choosing not to get married.

Schweitzer: Nitasha, as you know, the nature of being a family law attorney always leads to interesting dinner party conversation. A frequent topic has been the current trend of millennials choosing not to marry or delaying marriage until they are older. Being a millennial yourself, I’m curious if you would agree with my theory as to why this is happening:

As children, this generation watched their parents argue and got caught in the middle of custody disputes. They probably also disliked living in two separate residences and having to split their time among parents. As a result, many millennials have chosen not to get married or delay marriage because they are essentially gun shy.

If this is true, I see problems with this line of thinking. Getting legally married provides some protections that should be considered. Common Law Marriage does not exist in California, so those who choose to live together for a lengthy period of time will not get the same protections that married people do under the Family Code, such as the right to accumulate community property and / or receive spousal support.

In light of my argument, don’t you think people from your generation should invest in pre-marital counseling and make better choices in companions, rather than avoiding marriage?

Khanna: In my opinion, majority of people are choosing to get married later because their focus in life has changed. In previous generations, the emphasis may have been on getting a primary education, getting married and starting a family. However, as times have progressed, people are focusing more on their education and career. I think women are less concerned about their biological clocks, and more concerned about being financially independent, so they are choosing to further their professional career before marriage and starting a family.

Schweitzer: Okay, so it sounds like you have not bought my argument (and I guess I should feel less guilty as a divorce parent), so I will ask you a follow up question: What do you anticipate will change (if anything), to the institution of marriage, families, and divorce in light of the current trends?

Khanna: I would like to think that people would be less likely to get divorced - people are generally older now when they pick their spouse and decide to get married, so one would like to think that when people marry older, they are wiser about picking their spouse, and therefore less likely to divorce.

By the same token, I can think of plenty of reasons why people from today’s generation may find it hard, if not harder, than people from previous generations to sustain their marriage. First of all, as people get older, I believe they get more stuck in their ways and perhaps less likely to compromise, which doesn’t work well for a marriage. Secondly this is the generation of the iPhones and the iPads, where people want the newer and better model each time one is released. People do not want to settle for second best, so they are taking much longer to find their spouse, and perhaps they might even be quick to “upgrade” if they think they have found someone better.

With that said, I think the real focus here should be why people should choose to get married instead of choosing to live together, or having a child with someone without getting married. In your experience, what are some other reasons, besides the right to receive spousal support or accumulate community property?

Schweitzer: Well, besides that old fashion reason – love, I can think of several reasons, such as the ability to be added to a spouse’s health care coverage, obtaining tax benefits, and gaining social security benefits. I also think families are more likely to stay intact when there is a marriage. These are all good reasons why people from your generation should at least think about the protections and benefits of tying the knot!

Khanna: I think these are all great reasons, Don. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t believe people are choosing not to get married, but perhaps just choosing to get married later in life.

Join the discussion. Tell us what trends you’ve seen with millennials and marriage, or ask Don or Nitasha a question in the comments below.

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