Is Cohabitation Illegal in the State of Florida?

In light of recent articles surfacing, unmarried couples who live together in Florida may be very surprised to learn that they are breaking the law. Chapter 798.02, a law that was passed in 1868, prohibits unmarried opposite sex couples are prohibited from cohabiting without marriage. This is a law that is still in the books and still is able to be applied to Florida couples. Interestingly, no mention is made of same sex couples cohabitation. The legal prohibition states that:

798.02 Lewd and lascivious behavior.If any man and woman, not being married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together, or if any man or woman, married or unmarried, engages in open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, they shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

A second degree misdemeanor conviction can result in a $500 fine or up to 60 days in jail.

But is this law actually enforced in modern times? Surprisingly, according to a Tallahassee television station, some 700 people have been arrested under this law in more recent times. It is not known whether any of these people were actually convicted of the crime of unmarried cohabitation. The circumstances surrounding their arrests are also unknown. Crazy, right? According to census reports, more than half a million unmarried couples are breaking the law on a daily basis by unlawfully cohabiting in Florida.

Well, maybe someone just hasn’t tried to get it repealed? Incorrect. At least one Florida politician has attempted to eliminate the prohibition and has not been successful.

It is a sensitive political issue that doubtlessly would receive popular support both in favor of and against continuing to criminalize unmarried cohabitation. In the meantime, like it or not, it is the law in our state.

If you or someone you know ever has an issue regarding these matters, please contact an experienced family law attorney to help you.

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