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Cohabitation is an arrangement whereby two people decide to live together on a longterm or permanent basis in an emotionally and/or sexually intimate relationship. The term is most frequently applied to couples who are not married.


Reasons for cohabitation

Today, cohabitation is a common pattern among people in the Western world. People may live together for a number of reasons. These may include wanting to test compatibility or to establish financial security before marrying. It may also be because they are unable to legally marry, due to reasons such as same-sex, some interracial or interreligious marriages are not legal or permitted. Other reasons include living as a way for polygamists or polyamorists to avoid breaking the law, or as a way to avoid the higher income taxes paid by some two-income married couples (in the United States), negative effects on pension payments (among older people), or philosophical opposition to the institution of marriage (that is, seeing little difference between the commitment to live together and the commitment to marriage). Some individuals also may choose cohabitation because they see their relationships as being private and personal matters, and not to be controlled by political, religious or patriarchal institutions.

Some couples prefer cohabitation because it does not legally commit them for an extended period, and because it is easier to establish and dissolve without the legal costs often associated with a divorce. In some jurisdictions cohabitation can be viewed legally as common-law marriages, either after the duration of a specified period, or the birth of the couple's child, or if the couple consider and behave accordingly as husband and wife. (This helps provide the surviving partner a legal basis for inheriting the deceased's belongings in the event of the death of their cohabiting partner.) In Saskatchewan, Canada, a married person may cohabit with other married or single persons and become the spouses of all of them under the Saskatchewan Family Property Act. Consent of the "subsequent spouse" is not required. Although Canada has a federal criminal code law prohibiting polygamy, which includes anyone who authorizes more than one conjugal union at a time, Saskatchewan judicial authorities that unilaterally authorize multiple conjugal unions have not yet been charged under this federal law.


In the Western world, a man and a woman who lived together without being married were once socially shunned and persecuted and, in some cases, prosecuted by law. In some jurisdictions, cohabitation was illegal until relatively recently. Other jurisdictions have created a Common-law marriage status when two people of the opposite sex live together for a prescribed period of time. Most jurisdictions no longer prosecute this choice. In the province of Saskatchewan, Canada, judicial authorities have used binding authority to sanction married women being the same time "spouse" of other men due to cohabitation. Consent to be spouses of all persons involved is not required. Therefore, it is likely that future court challenges in Canada will use this Canadian case law to claim married persons may also civilly marry other persons without divorcing first.

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