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Marriage, as an institution, seems to be dying out. Millions of couples are happily living together and building a future together, and many are either trying to get pregnant or experience surprise pregnancies.

Does it really matter whether you get married now, after the baby comes, or never?  

The appearance of the family is changing, in the United States and many other countries. We've got all kinds of families now two same-sex parent families, one-parent families, blended families, and coparenting families. Whether this is good or bad is a whole other discussion, but how do you want to shape your family?

If you are a one man, one woman cohabiting couple expecting a baby, you may wonder what the benefits of marriage are in this day and age. Statistics say that cohabiting but unmarried couples are just as likely as married couples to have kids. And why get married, beside perhaps a few minor conveniences like getting both parents on the baby's birth certificate more easily? Before you agree to continue happily coasting along in your non-married relationship, you may like to take a look at a recent report on the benefits of marriage. The Institute for American Values doesn't hide its strong preferences for marriage over cohabitation. Once you read their various reports about the very real benefits of marriage, you start to understand why. Are you offended by the notion that living together with your partner isn't really just the same as being married? So am I (and I am married), but there are a few interesting statistics that may make you want to go and tie the knot immediately.

  • 42 percent of American children live in cohabiting households.
  • Children of divorced parents are 12 percent more likely to go to jail as adults. Children of cohabiting parents are a whopping 22 percent more likely to end up behind bars.
  • Married men earn more than cohabiting men with similar qualifications and job history.
  • Children of cohabiting parents have worse mental health outcomes than parents of married parents.
  • The break-up rate is 170 percent higher for children in cohabiting families than for those in married families (up to age 12).
  • Children in cohabiting families are a at least of three times more likely to suffer from sexual, physical or emotional abuse than both children of married parents and children in single-parent households.

While you ponder those factoids, you may also want to consider one other thing. Is marriage just a piece of paper for you, without any inherent personal value? Then you probably do not have anything against getting married either. Why not discuss the possibility of marriage with your partner, and see what he thinks about it?

Marriage does several things. It makes both of you being recognized as the legal parents of your baby markedly easier. It allows your child to access his or her father's assets more easily (think medical insurance, and also inheritance). It enables your partner to make medical decisions on your behalf without any trouble which means that you do not have to wait for your parents or siblings to turn up to do this, if something happens during your labor and delivery and you are not in a position to make the decision yourself (because you are unconscious or under total anesthesia).

And childbirth is still the most dangerous thing most women go through, so this is not something that is totally pointless to consider. It also, in the end, shows that both of you have made a permanent commitment to spend your lives together. Making a baby is just as big a commitment of course, but why not show each other and your child that you are going to stick with each other?

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