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Live-In Relationship in Various Countries

The 1990s was a changing decade. With the end of the Cold War, a lot of things have changed everything and everyone in the world stage. The decade changed the countries, societies, politics and economies. It also brought lot of new technologies like the internet, video game consoles, e-commerce, military drones and vice versa. But it also lead new problems like the low birth rate issue in Japan, wars in Congo, Rwanda, Chechnya, Yugoslavia, Iraq etc., religious strife in India, rise of global terrorism and so. Despite of all the problems the world also saw the rise of new trends. One such trend is the live in relationship. The concept was rising in especially in the urban areas and is popular among people in their youths.

Live-in relationship is a type of arrangement where a couple would live under the same roof without marrying together. The practice is way different from marriage because unlike marriage which has a legal definition, live-in relation does not have any but are consider as common-law partners. Live in relationship is widely popular and increasing in countries like China, US, India, France. It also became popular due to TV shows, movies, web series, anime and so on.

Live-in relationship in the mentioned countries, particularly in their urban areas have popular because people are beginning to see disillusionment or breakdown of marriages or when a couple is still reluctant to take further steps. This is also a huge step where partners can know and understand each other and could eventually lead to actual marriage.

Although live-in relationship is popular in various countries but there are still countries that still oppose the concept of live-in relationship due to various reasons whether it would be religious or cultural, with some considering a taboo as live-in relationship requires no marital status, and due to the conservative nature of some of the countries marriage is given more weight. Because of this people in their youths are facing a lot of problems due to their non marital status.

What Is Live-In Relationship?

The legal definition of live-in relationship is a living arrangement in which a couple without any marital status lives together in a relationship which is not only for a long term but also serves as an equivalent of a marriage. Live-in relationship is also known as cohabitation. This relationship can be either a romantic or sexual in nature and it can even be permanent. In the late 20th Century, the practice become an emerging trend in the Western Europe, South and South East Asia, North America due to changing social roles in terms of marriage, gender and religion.

Reasons for the Increase in Live-in Relationship

  1. One of main reasons why people prefer live-in reasons is they have concerns regarding the ability to maintain a successful marriage. Even though they do not personally experienced divorce, they are still afraid that it could happen. Divorce recently has become a deterrent towards marriage which could effect people psychologically, emotionally and economically.

  2. The emerging theory of individualization theory in the post modern world. According to Gidens, theory includes consensual, democratic or pure relationship and selfish individualism. The theory dismantles tradition rules and institution and replaces with modern and rational rules and framework. The theory sees modern relationship with fulfillment of the individual and the love which is consensual with emotional and sexual equality. However the theory is criticized for lacking lacking methodologies and any historical and empirical facts regarding socio-sexual systems.

  3. Another obvious reason is the changing of social attitudes and decline in traditional marriages. The practice which was once prohibited by the religion is now widely accepted by the young people. Some people would prefer closeness, emotion and intimacy in relationship rather than follow the duties and obligations of marriage. And lack of pressure to follow traditional norms and values allowed people to practice live-in relationship.

  4. According to Christin L'ffler women's moment, feminist movement led to several changes like employment and education of women, economic, biological and domestic independence and lack of reliability of male partners

  5. The downfall of Communism in the Eastern Europe and the breakup of Yugoslavia has led to the changes in politics but also in the society, with the decline in marriages and people practicing live-in relationship with the trend actually existing in the 1980s.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Live-In Relationship

  1. Partners who are living together can get to know each other easily. With the rise in divorces, the partners found it important that living together before marrying is the best way to know each other.
  2. Partners can share their liabilities and they can enjoy their life like they want. Unlike marriages, they are not lawfully bound to each other and can break off their commitment if they want. Their relationship should be based on mutual understanding.
  3. As previously mentioned people who are live-in relationship can break off their commitment if they want to. They can choose whether or when to leave the relationship without going through any stress of divorce.
  4. A partner can understand the responsibility of his/her counterpart and has to make a decision if they can live with these choices before marriages.
  5. Financial Benefits- Couples living together can formulate income if they have two properties, for example and if they rent one of them. This could be a financial benefit for the partners. It can also teach the couples about financial stability.

  1. Couples who are living together can often face the problems of physical domestic violence and sometimes infidelity which could affect them physically, financially and financially. This can also negatively affect children as well.
  2. Live-in relationship can often increases the pressure to get married albeit it was suppose to lessen the marital pressure. This pressure could be given by either partner, friends or family.
  3. The partners can also face challenges like lack of rights and authorities over marital and inherited property, funeral and burial arrangement, lack of eligibility of coverage or benefits under insurance contracts and vice versa.
  4. Another disadvantage is that broken engagements can often lead to emotional and psychological effects like smothered, irritated, neglected and even heartbreaks. Depression can also play a vital role in the breakup of a live-in relationship as the relationship could end at any moment.
  5. Live-in relationship can also bring incompatibilities which means the things people find it amusing can later become irritating and annoying. For example if a partner finds the other's dry humour once amusing while dating can become less charming when living together.
  6. The practice is still seen as a negative light by the society as it still considers it as a taboo on religious, moral, class reasons etc. The individual choices of the partners are often berated, harassed, criticized by the society.

a.Difference between Live-in Relationship and Marriage

Marriage Live-In Relationship
Union of 2 Persons with formal commitment which is recognized by the law is known as marriage. Kind of an arrangement where a couple decided to stay together.
Financial affairs are generally handled together. Financial affairs are generally handled separately.
Divorcing a spouse is painful and could lead to trauma. Relationship can be ended in any moment as it has no commitment.
Families are involved in marriage as it a union of 2 families, not only two individuals. So marriage can be a serious matter for the families. Families do not usually involved in the relationship of couples as live-in relationship is about individuals.
Responsibilities is common in marriage, however freedom can be restricted sometimes. Both partners tend to have their own freedom and space with no involvement of obligations and responsibilities.
Children born in marriage are accepted by the families and the society. Children born in live-in relationship may require some commitments by the partners.
Marriage is a collective choice. Live-in relationship is an individual choice.
When one of the spouse dies, the other spouse has the legal right for the inheritance of a portion of a deceased spouse's estate. When one of the partner dies, the other partner will have no claim in the estate unless his/her name is mentioned in the former's will.
In post separation or divorce, a higher income earning spouse is obligated to provide financial support to their other spouse. Couples who lived together and then split up are not obligated to support each other financially unless they enter into a contract.
Children born in a marriage can be presumed to be the offspring of husband and wife. Children born in live-in relationship are not entitled to legal presumption to paternity or maternity. They must establish their paternity or maternity through blood tests and a legal means.

Socio-Legal Status Of Live-In Relationship In Various Countries

North America
The United States of America
As mentioned previously, many people practicing live-in relationship due to low quality marriages and psychological distress caused by it. An article by USA TODAY states that from 1960s to 2000, about 10 million people (i.e. 8% of the American couple households) are living together and are unmarried. Most unmarried couples who live together are in the age groups of 25 to 34 years old.

The reasons for the increase are the higher cost in housing and tight budgets, as well as the partners want to know each other better by spending time together. According to the 2009 American Community Survey which was conducted by the Census Bureau the age groups of 30-44 years old who were living together has doubled since 1999 from 4% to 8%. A research by Richard Fry and D'Vera Cohn states that 73 % women at the ages of 19 to 44 years who are in live-in relationship are without a high school education which is a contrast to 52% women who have attended college or 47% of women who have got a college degree.

As previously mentioned before in the 1970s the unmarried living together is uncommon. The reason is that before the mid 20th Century there were laws were against the practice of live-in relationship as well as adultery. As stated by the PBS, is that live-in relationship was impossible in the 1960s however due to the changing of the divorce laws in the 1960s and 1970s making divorces easier to obtain and the rise of divorce rates, people started to live together without marrying each other.

What was once disreputable has now become normal. However in time these laws were struck down as it was considered as unconstitutional. For example, the state of North Carolina has declared the law that prohibits unmarried couples to live together is now considered as unconstitutional.

In Canada, the practice of live-in relationship is recognized as Common-Law relationship. In simple words, couples who are living together in a relationship which is equivalent to a marriage over a duration of time required by the law, then it is known as common-law relationship. This can be practiced either by straight people or people who are in same-sex relationship.

In the Canadian region of Quebec, in 2006 about 40% of women aged 25 to 30 years old are living in a live-in relationship. Furthermore, young women who are in live-in relationship have the capability to control their fertility than young women who are married. People who are in live-in relationship expressed their concern regarding marriage and divorce like legal requirements (age or previous marriage)

People who don't want to suffer financial and emotional cost of divorce or people who are tired of traditional norms. Additionally unlike marriage which could be dissolved through divorce, a couple living in a live-in relationship can end their relationship if they want to under the duration given by the law. For instance British Columbia's Family Relations Act it states that a couple who have lived in a marriage like relationship for at least two years and if the application made under the Act is made within a year after they stopped living together. The marriage like relationship can be between same or opposite gender.

Quebec which has the highest number people living in live-in relationship in the world only happened recently. This is because of its strong Roman Catholic roots where Church often interfere with the private and sexual life of people, this all changed thanks to the Quiet Revolution where young people rebelled against the doctrine.

In the case of Becker v Pettkus which was distributed by the Supreme Court (summed up in Important Family Law Cases) trailed by Peter v Beblow in 1993, together moving a force of rule law that has not decreased right up 'til today, step by step reaching out to companions, subject to legitimate exacting edges, backing and property rights including the extremely significant annuities.

The United Kingdom
During the Victorian England in the 19th century, live-in relationship is strictly prohibited due to strict social sanctions and personal and high moral standards. The working class and the poor people living in the urban areas are mostly subjected to these social sanctions whereas the upper and the middle class have the ability to flee their homes and can start over their lives elsewhere.

Fast forward to 2010s, the live-in relationship couples are the fastest growing family types as the couples who are in live-in relationship are has increased to 17.9% equating to 3.4 million people which makes them the second largest family type in the country compared to lone parent families which constitutes about 2.9 million people (i.e. about 15%) making them the third largest family group. The reasons for the increase in live-in relationship is because of the higher divorce rates as well as higher rents and house prices. Live-in relationship is also legal in the UK.

In England and Wales, an unmarried father can get parental responsibility for his child if :
  1. Register the birth of the child jointly with the mother (from 1 December 2003).
  2. He gets a parental responsibility agreement alongside the mother.
  3. He gets a parental responsibility order from a court.
In Scotland, a father who is unmarried has the parental responsibility if his name is on the child's birth certificate.(from 4 May 2006). In Norther Ireland, a father who is unmarried has parental responsibility if he is named or becomes named on the child's certificate. (from 15 April 2002)

Unmarried couple who are living together has quadrupled to 2 million in the last 2 decades. About third of marriages end up in divorce which alarmingly increases the divorce rates in France. Estimation says that 40% to 50% of the couples who are married have already lived together pre-marriage for two years. Many couples lost their interest in marrying and just live together simply. French legal system has distinguished between partners who has lived together into officially and unofficially.

The couples who are living officially will have the same privileges in the law as married couples which also includes social security. The couples need to acquire a certificate from the town hall which testifies that a couple is living together as husband and wife' albeit town halls are not oblige to issue them in which case a couple can sign a swore declaration that they live together. The only and major downside of this that live-in relationship partners are not recognized under the French inheritance laws which means they cannot get any state pension when their partner dies.

Unmarried couples (including same sex partners) can sign a pacte civile de solidarit (PAC in short) which will protect the rights of the individuals of each party and the partners are entitled to share property rights and can enjoy the benefits of income tax.

In Russia, particularly in the 20th century the relationship between traditional and modern approach towards live-in relationship was dynamic and varied in not only in law but also in practiced. In 1918 children were considered as equal regardless of whether they are born within or outside of marriage. In 1926, unmarried couples who went through formal civil marriage procedure can be considered as equal before the law. From 1926-39 live-in relationship was still tolerable in the Soviet Union.

However from 1940s to 1960s the marriage legislature became conservative and more privileges were given to marriages. Furthermore the marital fertility also declined following the end of World War II due to the significant loss of male population. However the in 1969 unmarried fathers and mother are allowed to register their children together. And in 1960s to 1980s divorce became easy to obtain.

In the 1980s when religious renaissance was rising, flexibility of norm in union formation begin to show. And sexual freedom started to emerge after the changing socio-sexual norms in 1980s to 1990s. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the beginning of the socio-economic crisis due to its transition to capitalism and everyone with more resources are less inclined to share with anyone has led to the increase in childbirths outside of marriage.

In the end of the 1980s, the percentage of non-marital birth was slightly above 10% as it relatively stable. However in the 1980s and even after the downfall of the Soviet Union, non-marital births begin to rise though later it became stable again at above 27%. By the 1990s and 2000s sexual and family diversification became more complicated due to the new socio-economic changes.

Russian women would use all means available to protect themselves against social, family or economic crisis. They act if the situation change for the worst and this could lead to further breakdown of weak union ties whether it would be in marriage or in live-in relationship.

Yu Jia and Yu Xie states that after the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the Chinese government endeavor to acquire quick industrialization and modernization the mainland China. Post Mao Zedong years likewise acquired part of changes the monetary, social and political circles in China. In the Chinese society, the adolescent used to remain with the families anyway because of industrialization, movement, advanced education numerous youngsters start to exit from the parental homes.

With no supervision from the guardians, the adolescent start to pick a way of life of their own remembering live-for relationship. Further instruction of ladies likewise improved during that time, and they were turning out to be monetarily free additionally prompted the ascent of live-in relationship, also ascent of created urban areas, high everyday costs, examines. One examination shows that the living together rate before first marriage was over 20% for those brought into the world after 1977.

When the opened door policy came in China which lead to the country's opening the market to the rest of the world after years of isolation. Because of this Western Culture including live-in relationship came and divorce began to influence the society. The socio-economic change has led to the increase in young people's autonomy in their life decision and also the loss of parental control over their children.

Live-in relationship in India is legal although there is no legal definition in the Indian laws and there is a lack of specific law which gives rights to the partners of the live-in relationship. In context to the case of S. Khushboo vs Kanniammal & Anr. The Supreme Court gave the judgement that Live-in relationship may be immoral in the society due to religious and conservative nature however it is not illegal. In India marriage is given as an importance over live-in relationship.

The concept is new in India because young people are afraid of the social sanction imposed by the society but as times are changing, the practice is becoming more normal in the urban areas. Live-in relationship is also a means freedom from the responsibility and commitment which can be essential in marriage.

As for the rights of women in live-in relationship the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 which considers women who are not married formally but are living with a male partner which is equivalent to marriage. Section 2(f) of the act defines the domestic relationship between two partners who lived together in the shared house or are related by marriage or a relationship which is in nature to a marriage. Thus the definition also includes partners of live-in relationship.

The case of Varsha Kapoor vs Union of India, the Delhi High Court held that female partner living in a relationship akin to marriage has a right to file a complaint against her husband/male partner as well as his relatives.

Islamic Countries
The Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Maldives, The UAE etc. follow the term of Zina. In this it means that practices like adultery, fornication, live-in relationship, same-sex relationship is prohibited under the Islamic scripture. Although consent plays an important role in the marriage, live-in relationship is out of the question as having a relationship before a marriage and a meeting with their families considered as a taboo.

The reason is that the Islamic legal system prohibits the practice of pre-marital intercourse this couples do not live together unless they are married. Islamic laws are very strict regarding relationship and breaking such rules can lead to harsher punishments for example in 2005, Indonesia proposed a law that could punish an couple for living together. The punishment is two years imprisonment and 30 million Rupiah. It would also give power to the police to raid the houses of the people who are living together.

In the 1980s, the marriage rates in Australia were declining and live-in relationship were rising. In 1975, 16% of marriages were preceded by live-in relationship. In 2008 it was 78%. When the Family Law Act 1975 came into force in 1976 the already rising divorce rates have soared. By the 1980s although divorce rates decreased, it remained above the level. It was during that time when socio-economic changes were occurring giving lots of opportunities.

For example, feminism gave women new aspirations to women beyond marriages and motherhood. Education and employment of women were given more importance over marriage which is why postponement of marriage is more prioritize. The rise of live-in relationship in Australia has led to the changes in the marital status of the parents like the increase of single parents.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, in the first half of the 20th century about 4-6% of childbirths were outside of marriage and in the late 1960s it rose to 8% and since the 1970s, birth rates have been increased.

So in conclusion, Live-in relationship is a new concept that acts as an alternative to marriage so that they can know each other and so that they can avoid divorce at all. People became open to the live-in relationship because of changing social, political and economic changes in the society like how countries like Russia, Bulgaria, Estonia are open to the practice of live-in relationship after the fall of communism and Soviet Union.

Some countries are open to this practice and has given them a legal status and some are still against the practice as they consider it as a taboo. Human nature is very dynamic and mysterious. On one hand, we are very hostile to changes because it might change or disrupt the old order, but on the other hand we do bring these changes so that people from all walks of life can progress for the better.

People who are once hostile to change will eventually open up to them. Countries that once forbid the practice of live-in relationship will make it legal in the future as change does not happen overnight. It is true that it is a long process for most countries to decriminalize or remove restrictions on live-in relationship but the process will happen anyway. Thus all we can do is that there will be a new world order where people have every right and responsibility to live their life without any intervention of anything or anyone.

  35. Zena is generally defined by Islamic Law as unlawful sexual intercourse i e intercourse between individuals who are not married to one another.
  42. accessed 29th of April 2014.

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