17th Feb 2016

Snog, Marry, Cohabit.....?

It is almost 3 weeks until my big day where I finally marry my partner of 11 years. It has been a long time coming!

Dealing with the breakdown of marriage on a day to day basis, one would ask why I would ever want to get married. However, not all of my work involves the breakdown of a marriage and there are some happy endings.

I read an article recently which highlighted the changes in society over the last 100 years or so in terms of marriage and children.

It will be of no surprise that the number of marriages has been declining over recent years, with more and more couples choosing to cohabit. Some of these couples go onto marry, while others continue to live together and have children out of marriage.

My mother was 19 years old when she married my father and they had their first child when my mother was 20 years old. It was unheard of back then that couples would live together for a number of years before deciding to marry, never mind have children out of wedlock. In the mid-19th century, only 5% of babies were born out of marriage. While in 2012, it was reported that 47.5% of babies were born out of wedlock and it is expected that the statistics for 2016 will be greater than 50%.

Society is now seeing an increase in older brides, with many couples choosing to live together and build their careers before deciding to have children or marry. However, there are still some couples who choose not to marry for various reasons.

As a family practitioner I see a number of couples come through my door following the breakdown of a relationship. The hardest cases are those where the couple have been together for 15 plus years, have had children together but for one reason or another have never married.

You will often find that one party has given up their career to raise their children, whilst the other has been the main breadwinner, has earned a good income and built up their pension. The party who has given up employment tend to be severely disadvantaged on the breakdown of their relationship, as a cohabitee has far fewer rights than if they were married.

There have been many requests for the legislation to change but at present there is no real prospect of the law changing any time soon. For more information on the legal differences between cohabiting and marrying, please read my colleague Stephen Root's blog post located here - http://bit.ly/1Vn0jQv

Written by Danielle Day of Berwins Solicitors.

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