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How couples can financially protect themselves without marriage

The Office of National Statistics has now published marriage figures for the year 2015, showing marriage rates for opposite-sex couples were the lowest on record.

The Office of National Statistics report there were 239,020 marriages between opposite-sex couples in 2015, a decrease of 3.4% from 2014 when there 247,372 marriages, and 0.8% lower than in 2013. Between same-sex couples there were 6,493 marriages, 56% were between female couples; a further 9,156 same-sex couples converted their civil partnership into a marriage.

The figures show a gradual long-term decline in the number of marriages since the 1970s, revealing a pattern that more and more couples now live together rather than formally marrying. People often believe that they are protected legally in a similar way to married couples if they are living together, which is not the case. There is no such thing as a ‘common law’ spouse. There are certain circumstances where one party can often be left with nothing if the relationship ends even after cohabiting for many years.

To prevent this, couples can put protections in place now to avoid any financial implications should there be a relationship breakdown. To do this, we advise people to enter into ‘Living Together Agreements’ and ‘Declarations of trust’. Both of these assist parties to regulate how property is to be divided (if at all) should they separate. They can also protect one or the other from potential costly claims made against property through the Civil Courts. These protections are advised particularly when people invest their life savings into their home with their partner. We strongly advise people to seek legal advice from our team of family solicitors in Birmingham before deciding to live with their partner.

The Office of National Statistics also report that, despite the overall decline in marriages, the number of people getting married later in life rose; there was an increase for men aged 50 and over and women aged 35 to 39 years and 45 and over. In some cases this may be a second marriage, after possibly going through a difficult divorce the first time. In such circumstances couples can consider entering into a ‘Pre-nuptial Agreement’. This confirms how assets are to be divided if they were to separate, preventing the risk of a potentially stressful divorce and unnecessary legal fees. Pre-nuptial agreements are not currently legally binding in England and Wales, but are given much weight in matrimonial proceedings as long as certain criteria are met. This is why it is important to seek legal advice and ensure the right protections are put in place. 

If you're looking for a marriage solicitor in Birmingham or the surrounding areas, please contact Jane Flemming at our Four Oaks office in Sutton Coldfield on 0121 323 2525 or for any matrimonial or family advice.

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