News & Opinion | January 27, 2021 12:23 pm

Millennial Divorce Sounds Way Worse Than Actual Divorce

Unmarried millennial couples are buying homes together, and it's all fun and games till it's time to break up

Millennial Divorce
Bucking relationship norms is all fun and games till it's time to get "divorced" and there's no marriage to dissolve.
Getty Images/fStop

So far, millennials have gotten credit for bucking the divorce trend of generations before them. But while married millennials may be staying together, their unmarried peers are weathering nasty pseudo-divorces without ever even tying the knot.

A generation known for subverting traditional expectations when it comes to dating, marriage and monogamy, millennials have rearranged the order of operations when it comes to developing a relationship. While their parents probably dated, got married, bought a house and had kids (then got divorced), many millennial couples move in together or have children before getting married, if they even do so at all. But while unmarried millennials obviously aren’t getting divorced, they still end long-term relationships, and it can be a logistical nightmare. A growing trend of premarital co-homeownership among young couples has led to a rise in what Vice dubs the “millennial divorce,” which can be just as complicated and legally taxing an affair as dissolving an actual marriage.

In fact, untying your life from an ex-partner’s may be even more difficult if you never actually tied the marriage knot. Divorce can certainly get messy, but even in the most bitter of splits, there’s a script in place for ending a marriage. In the absence of that legal context, however, breakups between partners who have tied their lives together in other ways can get complicated fast. “If you purchase a property and are not married, and then subsequently split up, there are fewer legal protections in place to help decide ‘who keeps what,’” financial advisor Graham Taylor told Vice.

For some couples, navigating the grey area of a “millennial divorce” without the legal context of an actual divorce can mean massive financial woes. One millennial divorcée told Vice she “was financially ruined and had to join a debt management plan” after her ex-partner stopped contributing to repayments for the loan she’d taken out to purchase the home they shared, while another was left to pay back her ex’s share of the deposit on their place.

Many millennials who choose to forego marriage in favor of simply cohabiting with a partner do so, in part, because they view marriage as little more than a dated, often messy legal contract they’d rather avoid being tied up in. But as it turns out, that messy legal contract can actually help couples avoid much bigger, more nebulous messes down the line. Divorce may be hard, but it’s a lot harder if you were never even married to begin with.