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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Marrying for the sake of the children?

I was enjoying a good debate with a friend the other day on the reasons why people marry. Initially it came from the story behind the blog last week about the heterosexual couple who want a civil partnership instead of a marriage but cannot because they are not a same sex couple. That got us onto talking about the reason people get married. Of course, I said, it’s for love, security and to show commitment. He agreed but cited a number of other reasons, and among the more cynical ones (for money, to throw a big party, for attention!) the one that stopped me in my tracks was “for the children”.

Now we hear a lot about couples staying together or the kids. A survey conducted on our divorce myths website recently showed that 89% of people knew a couple who had stayed together for this reason. This could mean that there are thousands of youngsters out there growing up in a less-than-happy household with parents who cannot stand the sight of each other but think it is better for their offspring to grow up in a family home with both parents.

However, I am not sure I could say I have ever knowingly come across a couple who have got married because of the children (I'm talking about children who are already born and growing up ratehr than unborn ones shooting up the aisle in a shotgun style). Initially I was incredulous that anyone would do this, but as we discussed it, I think I became confident that it wasn’t as bad as it sounded on the face of it. By the end, I had convinced myself that if this was really happening, it was a good thing and maybe it was the start of the backlash against not getting married?

The accepted trend in recent years is that fewer people are getting married. Statistics released earlier this year showed that marriage rates were at their lowest since 1895, with around 232,990 weddings in 2008. Let’s not get into the reasons behind that, but I have said many times before that politicians and campaigners seem to want to take away everything special about getting married, which can only exacerbate the problem.

So more coupes are living together without tying knot – but just maybe some people are rediscovering the love of being married and we will start to see a turn of the tide. People get married for many reasons, as I touched on earlier. If they have children out of wedlock, while there is no longer a social stigma attached to it, some couples might now think that their children would be better with married parents as they grow up. It means mummy and daddy have the same surname (sometimes) to avoid confusion at school, dads are automatically named on the birth certificate and so have parental responsibility, and when the Government sorts out what it is doing on tax credits, it could be that there is actually some financial advantage as well. So while children aren’t the only reason why a couple may finally decide to tie the knot, then can perhaps be the galvanising factor for a generation who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s for whom marriage was never really high on their agenda. And I, for one, think this is a good thing.

Andrew Woolley
Divorce Solicitor


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