Obviously that’s a tricky question and it depends on a whole series of largely subjective issues. People get married for many different reasons. Many couples want to celebrate the ‘big day’ whereas others take a more practical view wanting to formalise their relationship and avail themselves of the legal protections afforded by the institution of marriage. Those couples who choose not to marry also do so for a variety of reasons, some have been through unsuccessful marriages previously and don’t want to do it again, others actively don’t want or like the institution of marriage or simply never get round to marrying.
From a strictly legal point of view, there are considerable protections provided by law for married couples that unmarried couples don’t have (assuming you want them).
Increasingly, more and more people are choosing not to marry. Couples living in ‘unmarried bliss’ should be aware that they have few rights compared to married couples or civil partners. Unfortunately, the ‘myth of common law marriage’ (the mistaken notion that partners acquire the same rights as married couples over the years) has proved remarkably persistent. This is so despite the fact that common law marriage hasn’t existed in England and Wales since 1753. Worryingly, recent research showed that almost two-thirds of us believe that couples who have lived together for a while have the same rights as married couples.
Thanks very much to Punam Denley, a partner at the International Family Law Group LLP for reviewing and to David Hodson, also partner at the International Family Law Group LLP, who reviewed an earlier version which appeared in A Parent’s Guide to the Law by Jon Robins (LawPack , 2009). Stephen Lawson, a litigation partner at Forshaws Davies Ridgway LLP assisted with the section on the CSA.
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award