Des Moines, IA- It was once a taboo for a couple to live together before marriage. It was something couples just never did, but due to a seismic shift in society over the past three decades, and cohabiting is no longer frowned upon with many couples viewing as a trial marriage. It’s slowly becoming more and more common and not only are couples living together, but they are also buying homes together and having children together. This means they face the same complications that married couples face when they divorce.

In a Centers for Disease Control study released last year showed that at least 48 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 lived with their intimate partner before their first marriage. That’s a 14 percent jump from the 34 percent of women who admitted to living with a partner prior to marrying.

Forty percent of cohabiting couples end up getting married within three years of moving in together with 27 percent of couples ultimately breaking up.

“Instead of marriage, people are moving into cohabitation as a first union,” demographer Casey Copen, lead author of the report explained to USA Today. “It’s kind of a ubiquitous phenomenon now.”

Of the cohabiting couples participating in the CDC study, 20 percent of cohabiting women were likely to get pregnant within in the first year of living with their partner.

The CDC report further explains “Cohabitation is a common part of family formation in the United States, and serves both as a step toward marriage and as an alternative to marriage.”

But what does a couple living together have to do with divorce? Well, for the 27 percent of couples who break up, plenty. Because many of these couples are living their lives like a married couple; they build their lives together in much the same way as a married couple does. They combine their assets, take out mortgages, buy cars and other things together, and a fair percent of these cohabiting couples have a child or children, meaning when it comes to splitting they have the same issues to deal with in divorce.

While cohabiting couples don’t have to go through the legal process that married couples do, they often encounter the same issues; asset division and child custody. Laws regarding cohabiting couples are limited and they don’t have the same legal protections as divorcing couples which is one reason why some of these couples need the advice of a divorce attorney, especially if they lived together for many years.

Not being married doesn’t exclude a person from child custody issues, married or not this is an issue most couples grapple with. When a couple cannot satisfactorily settle this issue, a divorce attorney can step in and help a couple work with each other to come up with a mutual custody agreement. Their priority is to ensure the well-being of couple’s child is their primary focus.