When “Love Doesn’t Count”
On February 14th—Valentine’s Day—Huffington Post featured a piece called “When Love Doesn’t Count” about what happens (and what a couple loses) when disaster strikes and they are not married. Specifically, although many couples are choosing to remain unmarried today in order to maintain a divide between the government and their private lives, in fact, the article makes the argument that never getting married ends up leaving many locked out of some very important decisions concerning their beloved.
Certain benefits associated with (currently or at one time) being married include tax estate planning, employment, government, medical, family, death, consumer, housing, and other related benefits. For most, being able to ensure that their partner is taken care of in times when their health falls ill or, in the worst case scenario, being able to make burial arrangements in the instance of death, are critical.
One critical example of a “right” denied to unmarried partners is the issue of being locked out of the hospital room—and being able to make important health and medical decisions—when the loved one is ill, leaving such decisions up to other biological relatives or even judges who may not know what the partner prefers.
Another important issue concerns a couple’s home, and the ability to be shut out of your home and any inheritance if you are unmarried at the time of your partner’s death.
While other agreements can sometimes protect these interests, they cannot confer all the rights of marriage and, in addition, unmarried couples are actually less likely to enter into these types of agreements that provide specificity under particular circumstances in the first place, often leaving them more vulnerable.
Certain Legal Protections
Marriage can often protect other “defaults” as well—particularly in areas where your partner may have specific opinions on what should happen upon your death—such as organ donation and other areas where our partners may feel compelled to protect us once we’ve passed on. Unlike other countries such as Sweden and New Zealand, the United States still has not managed to provide automatic legal protections to unmarried individuals to try and ensure these rights.
Being unmarried affects a couple’s children as well, as approximately 40 percent of children are born to unmarried individuals today. Without automatic legal protections for unmarried individuals, there are no guarantees concerning child custody, child support, medical decisions, inheritance benefits, and other important aspects of family planning.
Florida Is Behind
In fact, just last year, legislators had to introduce a state bill to repeal a 19th century law that actually banned men and women from living together if they were not married. This ban—passed in 1868—would have actually made living together while unmarried a second-degree misdemeanor. The bill will actually be considered this year, and is a sign that, although issues such as same-sex couples being able to marry have fortunately been decided at the federal level, Florida has not exactly been proactive in offering progress in the face of unmarried couples.
Contact Us to Represent Your Rights
If you have concerns about any area of family law, find out how Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A., can help protect your rights by contacting us in Fort Lauderdale today. We are interested in what is best for you and your family, and ensuring that no one is harmed by a medical crisis or death.