We live in a world where we no longer have to be constrained or made to feel bad if we choose not to marry before having children. It’s one of the wonderful aspects of the freedom of our loves that we can choose whether marrying really is integral to making our family complete. However, even the most compact of couples with the best intensions should be aware of what having children can mean for your relationship and for your legal rights if you are living in cohabitation, so take the time do to a spot of research before you take the biggest, most important plunge of your life.
The Legal Issues
It’s important to assess the legal issues before having children because these can be life changing nuggets of knowledge if something bad happens or if you do decide to separate. It may not be the most romantic thing to do to sit down and discuss worst case scenarios, but for the benefit of your future children it’s essential you both understand the rights you have as parents.
Wills and Finances
The first thing you should do as future parents is to make a will and write into it the provisions for custody, this is because if something does happen to the father of your children, he may not be automatically entitled to custody or even to see the children should they fall ill. Ensuring the father’s name is on the birth certificate is also integral; it fills the gap that marriage would normally assume in this situation.
Being financially responsible for children is always the responsibility of both parents and should you separate the father will have to pay child support even if you are not married.
Know your legal rights; mothers are entitled to start their maternity leave up to 11 weeks before the baby is due, although you can take the time whenever suits you. Statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks and you get 90% of your average weekly pay for the first six weeks. For fathers, whether cohabiting or married and for fathers it is 2 weeks of ordinary paid leave.
Changes to Your Relationship
As with any relationship, having children will change how you are as a couple and how you spend your time and money. Being married doesn’t necessarily prepare you any more for what lies ahead, and similarly a cohabiting couple is probably going to need as much help and advice so don’t be afraid to ask friends and family; that’s what they’re there for.
Making Time for Each Other
Be very aware that time needs to be managed when children come along, and that includes time for each other. If you are in a cohabiting relationship then you’ll be used to having time to yourselves whenever you need it, and having children might be a shock to your normal system. Create date nights by getting your family involved in the child support or even making more of an effort to make each other dinner and watch a film together or play a game while the baby sleeps is as important to a cohabiting couple as it is any other.
Whether it’s finances or making time for each other there is really no difference when it comes to being married or in a cohabiting relationship, so take stock and do your research before the little one comes along.
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