Cohabitation, or the act of an unmarried couple living together, has become a prevalent social trend over the last 40 years.
In fact, today, cohabitation has become a precursor to marriage. But, in Mississippi, there are both criminal and civil legal effects of cohabitation that everyone should be aware of.
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It goes without saying, but Mississippi—being positioned in the Bible Belt of the United States—maintains a strong moral code and promotes family values. And believe it or not, cohabiting with another person is technically illegal in Mississippi.
But fear not, the Mississippi Supreme Court has recognized that the anti-cohabitation statute is ignored with great frequency and criminal cohabitation virtually goes unpunished today. Davis v. DavisSo. Thus, in Mississippi, criminal cohabitation is a misdemeanor offense that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Cutrer v. State, So. It is very rare that anyone in Mississippi will ever be prosecuted for cohabiting with another person out of wedlock.
Simply put, prosecutors and criminal courts simply do not see it as a valuable use of resources to prosecute cohabitation, especially given the burdensome standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt required for criminal cases; and could you imagine the of cases there would be? Nonetheless, cohabitation is still technically illegal in Mississippi. As outlined in one of my earlier posts, Mississippi does not recognize common law marriage and has not recognized it since So, in the event that cohabitants terminate their relationship, each person is generally entitled to their own property.
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However, there have been isolated incidents of cohabitants being afforded certain marital rights. See e. Pickens v.
PickensSo. However, these cases typically involve a very unique set of facts and circumstances. Generally speaking, a material change in circumstances, including remarriage, is sufficient to terminate alimony due to a divorced spouse. Likewise, there is a legal presumption that cohabitation—like remarriage—is sufficient cause to terminate alimony payments.
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Scharwath v. ScharwathSo. Thus, if a divorced spouse cohabits with another person while receiving alimony from an ex-spouse, the ex-spouse is entitled to terminate alimony under Mississippi law.
And lastly, persons who cohabitate may enter into a cohabitation agreement, which is a written agreement that generally outlines specifics regarding the extent of cohabitation including an anti-nuptial clause stating that the parties are not and will not be married and outlines what happens in the event the relationship is terminated, including how certain property accumulated during the relationship would be divided. Sheldon, N. As stated earlier, cohabitation is not supported by Mississippi public policy, and therefore Mississippi courts may very well be hesitant to validate cohabitation agreements where the Mississippi legislature has expressly forbidden cohabitation by statute.
Nevertheless, there are always alternative forms of relief for invalidated cohabitation agreements. Cates v.
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SwainNo. Ultimately, today, cohabitation is considered normative behavior. Cohabitation offers persons interested in a long term relationships to get to know one another before making a life-long commitment such as marriage.
As can be the case, cohabitation often does not result in marriage. Nevertheless, there are certain legal effects—both civil and criminal—that attach to cohabitation, and it is important for Mississippians to understand those effects before shacking up. As an experienced divorce and family law attorney I can help you better understand the legal effects of cohabitation in Mississippi.
If you or a friend need professional assistance regarding a cohabitation dispute or any other family law matter, please contact the Law Office of M. Devin Whitt for a free consultation at Mississippi Family Lawyer Blog. Criminal Cohabitation It goes without saying, but Mississippi—being positioned in the Bible Belt of the United States—maintains a strong moral code and promotes family values.