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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

When is a couple not a married couple?


 We’ve already covered the falling divorce rates so I won’t plough over old ground completely but I was interested to read Resolution’s response to the news that marriage rates are at their lowest since records began in 1862.

The provisional marriage rate for men in 2008 was 21.8 men marrying per 1,000 unmarried men aged 16 and over, compared with 22.4 in 2007 and 31.1 in 1998, according to the Office of National Statistics. The provisional marriage rate for women in 2008 was 19.6 women marrying per 1,000 unmarried women aged 16 and over, compared with 20.2 in 2007 and 26.6 in 1998.

So, in this day and age when couples choose to live together quite happily without feeling the push down the aisle, Resolution has renewed a call for unmarried couples to be granted legal rights, giving them the same legal foothold that married couples have. That way, both individuals would be treated fairly if they split up, “without equating living together to marriage or civil partnership”.

On the face of it, this may seem like a sensible idea. Greater protection would give some safeguards for a couple who never formalised their union if they subsequently broke up. But would it also not just be making work for lawyers left with a little bit more free time because divorces are falling?! If a couple choose to have their lifestyle ratified by the law of the land, they can get a living together agreement to protect their assets, or a civil partnership if they are a same-sex couple.

Or – and this is radical, I know – they could just get married. For better or worse.

The institution of marriage appears to be subject to constant erosion. Pretty soon the only thing you will gain from getting married is a huge overdraft.

The point is that some couples may choose not to get married simply because they do not want the legal ramifications that come from a short walk up the aisle. They should be free to do so. Whichever way round people choose to do things is up to them. There is a legal agreement there for them now. Yet another law is something we don’t need.


Loading comments...

re: “Yet another law is something we don’t need.”
I’m largely with you on this but I hear from those (usually female and mums with young kids with limited earning potential) who are left with no roof over their heads when their long-term relationships with the kids’ father breaks down and the property (rented, mortgaged or owned) is in their ex’s name. Yes, they might have done something more to safeguard against this at an earlier stage, but that often needs the ex’s permission which, if not given leaves them extremely vulnerable in the event of a split. I would envisage the new law would pick up this group and allow them similar rights to a married mum in order to protect them and their kids so that they are less likely to be caught in the poverty /claiming welfare trap when there is ‘family’ wealth.  ...

By Kirsten Gronning Breakup Angel on Wednesday February 17, 2010

The legal system has to move with the time and there is no doubt there are more and more couples living together rather than getting married.  However, many couples who live together do not know or understand their rights. There is a lack of information and/or knowledge about a couple’s rights under the current system, not many people are seeking legal advice.  About 5 - 8% of my cases relates to the breakdown of a relationship where the parties are not married.

The comment made by Kirsten Gronning Breakup Angel is a typical example of couples living together not knowing their rights.  It does not matter if a property is owned by one party, in most cases the other party does have a financial claim - best thing to do would be to seek legal advice to assess the situation as each case is different.

By Quyen Trickett on Wednesday February 17, 2010

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