The latest research by the Marriage Foundation confirms that the “middle classes” are turning their back on marriage. The past 18 years has seen marriage rates fall by 25% in middle income families; in 1994 84% of couples were choosing to marry but by 2012 this had fallen to 59%.
Relationships of course still exist but many couples now prefer to live together instead of getting married. Cohabitees are the fastest growing family type increasing by 14% since 2005. So why are people not getting married?
A key factor has to be the change in social values. Whereas sex outside of marriage was once discouraged, it now appears the social norm and no longer has any stigma. Couples also cite the fear of getting divorced and the psychological, economic and emotional consequences. Celebrity divorces have been well publicised with warts and all and some of these marriage breakdowns would be enough to put anyone off regardless of the merits of “conscious uncoupling”.
But does living together really have any advantage? Cohabitees make up 19% of all parents but over half of all family breakdowns. The freedom to simply walk away generates a whole raft of problems for those left behind. When a marriage breaks down, the law offers protection and a fair division of assets. This is not the case for cohabiting couples who have far fewer rights and remedies than divorcing couples. It is always hard to explain to an unmarried mother that the notion of “common law spouse” simply does not exist.
However protection for cohabiting couples and families can be provided by entering into a Living Together Agreement. This agreement will record what might happen if the relationship ends. It is a record of what you have, how you own and share things and provides an insurance policy to protect families in case things don’t work out. It is best for both parties to get help from a family lawyer as this could result in huge costs savings if things go wrong. Any attempt to claim property you live in, relies on land and trust laws which can be very expensive to sort out.
Even though the Law Commission recommended changes to the law to give unmarried couples protection, there are no plans in Parliament to do so. This leaves unmarried couples in a potentially difficult situation. It is not unromantic to think about your future together and a Living Together Agreement shows that you care for your partner even when you may no longer want to be together.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.