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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Have kids then get married, like Ed

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I have been critical in the past of Ed Miliband but it was nice to see a politician carry through on a promise and marry his long-term partner Justine Thornton last week. It had been suggested by some, me included, that it might just be a box ticking exercise but the couple looked very happy as they joined together legally after six years together.

It did allow their two children to take part in the celebrations, something that is increasingly commonplace. The timeline of old (which went something like meet, court, get engaged, marry, move in together, have children) is open to greater interpretation these days as attitudes have changed. In fact, in some cases it can seem that a couple looks to get married soon after they have met and before any real courting has happened, particularly in Las Vegas. That perhaps is an extreme case although as divorce lawyers you might be surprised how often we are approached with this kind of scenario.

Having children then getting married does have certain appeal, though I would argue that rarely (though not never) is having children a reason to get married.

It is easier to clear up any parental responsibility issues that might have been created by the unmarried dad not being there when the birth is registered. There are certain financial implications to getting married that might help the children financially in the longer term, and it means both parties share in the other’s fortunes, or otherwise. These can include property, savings, pension funds and even debts and inherited wealth.

It might be seen by some still that a married home gives a more secure environment for growing children (it is not as quick and easy for a couple to split up), but the latest British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey showed just under half of people thought cohabitation showed just as much commitment as getting married, while only 28% said they believe married couples make better parents.

Why get married then after having kids? Is it box ticking for your career, to demonstrate your commitment, to create a more secure home, for family and friends to have a party, to mark the start of a new stage in a relationship, or simply because you just finally get around to it? What do you think?

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor

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I think there may ber a risk of over-interpreting the part of the BSA survey concerning the commitment shown by cohabiting couples.  It’s true that there are many couples who ‘don’t need no piece of paper from the City Hall, keepin’ them tied and true’  but these are the couples who have definately decided to live together.  Most cohabiting couples, I suggest, have drifted into cohabitation and remain there, held together by a variety of forces, chief of which is inertia.  They are not the cohabitatnts who have the same commitment as married couples.  Spouses have at least declared their intention, at one time, of staying together.  Perhaps when England and Wales get their long-overdue statutory cohabitation scheme, people will be forced to think a bit more about the consequences of cohabitation.  At that point we may see a greater incidence of cohabitation as a positive long-term life choice….

By John M Fotheringham on Thursday June 16, 2011

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