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LegalMatch Cases Prove Unwed Women Having More Children

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unwed-motherTraditionally, it was assumed that teens accounted for most out-of-wedlock births.  However, the National Center for Health Statistics reports that the teen birth rate in the U.S. has declined to an all-time low, while unwed women in their 20s are increasingly having children.  These figures reflect the fact that more people in America marry later in life or cohabitate with their significant other without taking marriage vows at all.

Out-of-wedlock births have been on the rise since the late 1990s.  There were over 1.7 million households consisting of unmarried couples with children in 2004, compared with just 200,000 in 1970.  According to a report conducted by the Pew Research Center, almost 37% of children in the U.S. are born to unmarried women, and 47% of adults between the ages of 30-50 have cohabitated with a significant other at some point in their lives.  Currently, approximately 50% of children are born to unmarried, cohabitating couples, while in 1993, only about 33% were.

LegalMatch statistics, compiled from online intake reports completed by respondents across the nation, support these numbers.  According to 2008 LegalMatch case data, 40% of couples involved in child custody disputes are living together and have never been married to one another.  About 12% of respondents (comprised of men and women) chose “other” to describe their relationship status; a significant number of these “other” respondents stated that they are cohabitating or have cohabitated with their child’s other parent in the past, but never married him or her.  About 9.5% of respondents answered that they are separated and haven’t yet filed for divorce, while 7% stated that they are divorced and now married to someone else.  Finally, 6.7% stated that they are divorced and they, as well as their spouse, are living alone. 

Notably, fathers aren’t necessarily absent from the homes of unwed mothers.  A 2002 report conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that about 20% of new mothers under age 20 were unmarried yet cohabitating with the father of their child at the time of birth. 

While younger adults have expressed less moral concern over out-of-wedlock children and cohabitation, many older adults have expressed significant concern over these trends.  Perhaps as part of a backlash, Arkansas and Utah have expressly barred unmarried couples from adopting, but these statutes may reflect a prejudice toward homosexual parents rather than any bias against unmarried couples in general.

Ken LaMance

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