The Free Dictionary defines cohabitation as a living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage. Cohabitation usually occurs prior to a marriage. In fact, according to a Rutgers University study, the U.S. Census indicates that cohabitation is up more than tenfold from the 1960s. Recent trends have included cohabitation after divorce. States vary in their response to this emerging trend. Although Tennessee has no specific laws governing cohabitation after divorce, there are some things to consider.
Why Continue Living Together
Divorce Info provides many reasons people continue living together after divorces, which include the need to take care of children, the desire to pool resources to pay bills and the need to wait for the sale of common property, such as a homes or land, so that both parties may split the profits. Additional reasons include estate planning, school zoning and medical care.
Rights of Property
Tennessee is an equitable distribution state, meaning that property is distributed to both parties regardless of marital fault. This distribution is equitable regardless of who purchased the property during the marriage, or what name is on the title. If the property was gained during the marriage, the distribution after divorce is equitable. Continued cohabitation can confuse the issue, however, and it is recommended by Findlaw that persons who cohabitate create a contract that stipulates the principles and boundaries of the relationship.
Tennessee Code Title 36, Sections 36-6-106 governs child custody. Custody can be awarded separately or jointly, based on numerous factors. If anything other than joint custody is awarded, the act of cohabiting after a divorce can have adverse effects on the case of the person who was granted custody, especially if custody was granted due to a fault of the non-custodial spouse. Additionally, by cohabiting after a divorce, the children can become confused, and as Divorce Info points out, the natural grieving process can be delayed, which will increase their denial of the divorce and its extenuating issues.
Illegal cohabitation is cohabitation with anyone other than the former spouse against the directives of the court. This decision may be rendered if during the child custody hearing one parent or the other raises questions about the morality or safety of the child during possible future cohabitations of the custodial spouse. If illegal cohabitation occurs, it is the responsibility of the non-custodial parent to obtain evidence through legal methods.
Although Tennessee does not recognize a common law marriage, they will recognize common law of other states, if a couple had achieved common law status in the other state prior to making Tennessee their home. There is no such thing as a common law divorce. The National Conference of State Legislatures indicates that all 50 States, regardless of recognition of the legalities of common law marriage, require a court order to establish divorce.
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