It seems like nowadays, the millennial generation gets blamed for just about everything. Too many adult children living at home with their parents? Blame it on Millennials. The large unemployment rate? Blame it on Millennials. The slump in the economy? Blame it on Millennials.
While most Millennials are annoyed by this blame game, there are three possible issues — specifically related to family law — that actually could arise because of the millennial culture.
1. Property division issues because of co-habitation
According to a Pew Research study, an increasing number of Millennials are choosing co-habitation over marriage, making them the largest generation to head up these types of households so far. In 2016, “Millennials were heads of 4.2 million of an estimated 8.3 million cohabiting-couple households.”
Since many co-habitation relationships are romantic in nature, it’s worth noting the obvious issue that can arise when a millennial couple decides to part ways: How do they divide their belongings when the relationship ends?
In Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660, the California Supreme Court held that oral or written contracts made between two partners can be enforced upon separating. As an article on the State of California Department of Justice’s website explains, the court has the power to divide property of cohabitating, unmarried couples upon separation. This is not done in accordance with state community property rules, but rather in accordance with “the couple’s reasonable expectations during cohabitation.”
In short, Millennials who choose to cohabitate rather than marry could find themselves facing contested property disputes that may not be easy to resolve. Many are choosing to do a cohabitation agreement which outlines each other’s financial responsibilities.
2. Child custody issues concerning single mothers and unmarried parents
Pew Research determined that the millennial generation consists of more single mothers than any other generation. While the research didn’t mean to, it does point to a potential issue: What happens to custody arrangements?
In California, when a child is born to a married couple, the man is the presumed father of the child. He then gains all the rights and responsibilities of a father, including, among other things, the right to custody upon separation or divorce. In the case of single mothers, however, parentage for fathers isn’t automatically established. Paternity should be established through a legal proceeding which would require DNA testing if contested or by voluntarily signing a Declaration of Paternity.
While cohabitating Millennials may find it easier to establish paternity because of their living situation, single-parent Millennials may have a tougher time, as they may need to seek help from the courts before resolving major family law issues such as custody, visitation or support.
It’s more than just a ‘blame game’
While some might blame Millennials for the potential family law issues we described above, it’s important to point out that since the Baby Boomer generation, social acceptance of cohabitation and single-parent households has been on the rise. It’s not the millennial generation’s fault these issues could occur, but they are something they might have to contend with.