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British couples rejecting marriage for cohabitation

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Marriage rates in England and Wales have fallen for the fourth consecutive year, plummeting to the lowest levels since records began, new research has revealed.

The Office for National Statistics has found that 232,990 couples were married in 2008, the lowest number since 1895 and a 1% drop from 235,370 in 2007. For every 1,000 adult men, 21.8 married in 2008, compared to 19.6 females.

Approximately 2.5m couples live together outside of marriage in England and Wales and the move towards cohabitation means that more children will be born outside of marriage.

But critics believe the country should quickly change its opinion on what makes a ‘real family’.

“The public and private commitment involved in getting married makes a real difference to the longevity of relationships, so public policy needs to support and encourage marriage,” the Centre for Policy Studies’, Jill Kirby, told the BBC. “Otherwise we shall just see more family break up, which is hard for children and bad for society.”

But, with possible changes in law introducing marital rights to cohabitating couples, the reluctance to enter into a union may not prove as damaging as sceptics believe.

Under current law, ‘cohabitees’ have no automatic right to their partner’s estate in the event of death but the government may soon amend legislation to mirror the ‘modern family’ ideal supported by the recent statistics.

In November last year, a government commission investigated changes to cohabitation law that could reflect a shift in society. Speaking at the time, Professor Elizabeth Cooke said: “It is vital that the law remains relevant and up-to-date, reflecting the reality of modern society.”

The results of the commission are expected soon.

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Written by Andrew Hodges

February 19, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

Tagged with ,

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