3 things unmarried parents need to know about living together
It’s important for couples — especially cohabiting parents, who now account for a clear majority (59 percent) of all births outside marriage — to empower themselves regarding the protections available to them under the law. The top three things unmarried, cohabitating couples should know about:
Parental rightsFor an unmarried heterosexual couple in North Carolina, it is vital to establish paternity from the birth of the child, as they are forgoing the automatic legal parentage established by marriage. Hospitals and birthing centers often have the forms needed for an Affidavit of Parentage, and a notary public available to witness the parents' signatures on this sworn statement.
Among other things, the Affidavit establishes that the father is the biological and legal father of the child and helps in adding his name to the birth certificate.
Estate planningGetting the basic four or five documents in place can go a long way towards alleviating the problems that can arise when one unmarried, cohabitating co-parent passes. Durable powers of attorney for financial decisions, health care powers of attorney coupled with advance directives or living wills, guardianship provisions (both short-term and long-term) for minor children, and some combination of last will and testament and/or trust document -- all part of a basic estate plan for unmarried couples.
It's important to note that having those documents alone will not address all the issues that are out there. Unmarried couples must be proactive in designating where they want their estates or assets to go, and so other avenues must also be explored. Joint ownership of accounts, beneficiary designations, federal benefit programs, gifting programs and non-probate ownership forms should all be investigated by the unmarried couple.
Prenuptial agreementsIn the course of living together - especially when co-parenting - the hope is that a couple has established a clear understanding of their financial situation and each other's expectations for the future. The creation of a prenuptial agreement formalizes their agreement on a range of issues, which can include individual debt, division of property on divorce or death, life insurance policy beneficiaries, and more. Settling these issues prior to exchanging vows can go a long way towards setting the groundwork for a successful marriage.