Better and better off apart: Whither the new ‘family test’?

08-Dec-2014

In the Treasury’s Autumn Statement this week, new rates of tax credit were introduced for the year 2015-16. These show small but significant increases in Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits.

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The Times: "Revealed: shocking cost of divorce for children"

24-Nov-2014

Sir Paul Coleridge: "Children almost never perform at their highest potential when their emotional life is chaotic, and family breakdown is the arch contributor to that. How many more studies and statistics do we need before we all, including government,...

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Bleak prospects for teens who never marry, finds The Marriage Foundation

17-Nov-2014

Far fewer 20 year olds are predicted to marry than the previous generation; only 52 per cent of 20 year olds compared to 68 per cent of 40 year olds.

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The Sunday Times: "Marriage is a choice, a pledge, a commitment — it is a conscious decision with big life-enhancing powers"

27-Oct-2014

"To make that pledge in front of a posse of friends and family is particularly binding. Such vows are not broken lightly."

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Distinctive features of marriage

The case for marriage rests in part on the nature of marriage and the processes of relationship formation and maintenance that surround it. It is not simply a couple relationship with a distinct legal status and any evaluation of marriage must include all its features.


  • Marriage is a legal relationship that offers protection to its parties in a way that is very hard to replicate by separate agreements. The Law Commission recognises that many people wrongly believe that there is such a concept as ‘common law’ marriage which offers cohabiting couples similar protection.    http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm71/7182/7182.pdf
  • Marriage makes a clear distinction between public and private relationships. Its public nature clarifies third party obligations: there is no doubt, for example, that a married spouse should receive widow’s benefits but there is a grey area around early stage cohabitations. Wider family members have greater clarity about the nature and status of the relationship.
  • Marriage is an intentional act of commitment. Cohabiting couples can slide into parental responsibilities or shared financial commitments without making a decision about their commitment to each other. These responsibilities create inertia in the relationship: relationships continue which might otherwise have ended earlier but without the mutual commitment that can help in pressured circumstances. The intentional commitment of marriage is known to be a protective factor. (Rhoades, Stanley and Markman (2006) Pre- engagement commitment and gender asymmetry in marital commitment)
  • Marriage also provides a natural trigger point to access relationships education in a way that cohabitation does not (although the birth of a child is another important trigger point).
  • The nature of marriage as a social institution brings with it a range of social norms which can promote behaviours more likely to safeguard the relationship.