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LEGAL COMMENT: Marriage statistics show slight rise, but remain at historic low

Matthew Taylor comments on the latest ONS statistics on marriage rates in 2016..

The latest marriage statistics were issued by the Office of National Statistics today (28 March 2019) which showed that in 2016, there were 249,793 marriages in England and Wales, 1.7% more than in 2015, but 1.0% fewer than in 2014.

Matthew Taylor, Solicitor in the family team at Weightmans comments:

“The number of religious marriage ceremonies is at an all-time low and while 2016 saw a slight increase in the number of people getting married, marriage rates do remain historically low. And with the rising trend of cohabiting couples - and the growing awareness of alternative routes onto the property ladder such as shared ownership and Help to Buy - it’s important now more than ever that couples consider the financial implications of setting up a home together. Property law does not focus on fairness, nor does it take the couple’s respective financial positions into account in the same way that matrimonial law does.”

“Although the myth of cohabiting couples enjoying ‘common-law’ legal status has been largely debunked, there still persists the view that setting up a home together affords you certain legal rights. The lack of protection can come as a real shock and is all the more reason for couples choosing to live together out of wedlock to draw up a formal legal contract to protect their assets in the event of splitting up.

“This latest data also shows that the average age at marriage continues to rise. As well as second marriages having a part to play, those in their mid- thirties to early-forties typically have different financial priorities than those in their twenties. With people reaching financial maturity later than previous generations, it might be this age bracket is more likely to be able to budget for and afford a wedding - or it could simply be that having more life experience makes them more comfortable with making the commitment.”

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