Is cohabitation before marriage illegal in NC?
Yes, cohabitation before marriage is still technically illegal in North Carolina.
North Carolina general statute 14-184 states:
“If any man and woman, not being married to each other, shall lewdly and lasciviously associate, bed and cohabit together, they shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.”
This law dates back to 1805 and is punishable by up to 60 days in jail. North Carolina is one of only 5 states that still have a cohabitation law on the books.
“The policy behind this law comes from religious morality — protection of the institution of marriage — and people behaving as man and wife, when in fact they’re not,” Culver explained.
In 2005, a Pender County Superior Judge ruled the NC law unconstitutional. But, the law is still enforceable.
“There’s no precedent in our law that says yes, we have to follow what another Superior Court judge does in another county, but potentially that would be something that I would use as a defense attorney in saying look, this is unconstitutional,” Goldsborough said.
Fortunately, this law is rarely prosecuted in family court. So, while cohabitation before marriage is still illegal in NC, there’s no need to panic.
About Attorney Jessica Culver
Jessica Culver is a family law attorney in Greensboro, NC. She’s known for her responsiveness and compassion with her clients. She gives back to my community by mentoring students and advocating for gun safety.
About Attorney Stephanie Goldsborough
Stephanie Goldsborough is a criminal defense attorney in High Point, NC. She has over a decade of experience in litigating criminal cases in the courtroom. She has defended individuals accused of felonies, misdemeanors, and DWIs. Ms. Goldsborough has also spoken at various conferences and clinics. And, she recently taught a Continuing Legal Education course at the Cary Bar Center.