The risk of divorce for Arizona couples who live together before getting married may be higher over the long run than for couples who do not. A study that appeared in the September 2018 issue of Journal of Marriage and Family reported that couples who cohabited before they got married had a higher risk of their marriage coming to an end.

Using data from the National Surveys of Family Growth, researchers looked at women 44 and under who had a first marriage between 1970 and 2015. They found that although there was a higher divorce risk in the first year among couples who had not lived together, following that first year, the greater risk was for couples who had.

Previous studies had indicated that living together before marriage did not increase the likelihood of divorce. The recent study’s authors says researchers in those studies may have been biased and did not look at the long term. They theorized that couples might have a bigger adjustment to make in the first year of marriage if they had not lived together previously. However, once couples got through that difficulty, divorce rates were higher for the couples who had started living together before marriage.

Divorce for couples who have been together longer may be more complex. After just a year or so of marriage, the couple might not have accumulated much property and may not have had any children. However, since Arizona is a community property state, anything either spouse has acquired since the marriage is considered marital property and must be split in the divorce. If they have been married for several years, it is more likely that they may have children and might need to negotiate child custody and support. They might want to have their respective attorneys assist in negotiating a settlement agreement that covers these and other issues.