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It’s tempting to think of marriage as old-fashioned. Why not just live with someone and be done with it? Yet it survives. All kinds of practical benefits seem associated with being married, writes Alain de Botton

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Tie the knot to boost children’s mental health, couples told


New research by Marriage Foundation shows that marriage significantly improves the self-esteem of teenagers and improves their life chances. Children with parents in a stable long-term cohabiting relationship did not see any benefit.

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The First National Conference of the Marriage Foundation took place
 in London on February 15, 2013 at the HQ of Notre Dame University:

  Modern Marriage: Myths, Realities and Prospects

Playing to our strength as the authoritative organisation for up-to-date research on marriage in the UK, the Marriage Foundation staged its first national conference in London on February 15, 2013. The future of marriage is clouded by the prevalence of many myths and a conspiracy of silence around some key issues. This conference therefore explored the myths and realities that currently shape both debate about marriage and the choices of people as they form and dissolve relationships.

Click here for the day's programme and links to the texts of the pesentations made at the conference, or click on the photos of the individual speakers below for links to their contribution. 

Paul Coleridge

The Marriage Foundation is rooted in the vision and concern of Paul Coleridge, its Chairman and Founder. Sir Paul was appointed a High Court judge in the Family Division in 2000 after thirty years as a family law specialist barrister. He deals with complex cases of family break up, especially those which involve children. 

Baroness Deech DBE

Ruth Deech has chaired the Bar Standards Board since 2009. Between 1991 and 2004 she was Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford. She has served as Chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (1994-2002), a Governor of the BBC (2002-2006) and as the first Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (2004-08). She is an independent member of the House of Lords.  You can follow her on Twitter: @BaronessDeech

Harry Benson

Harry Benson is the Communications Director of the Marriage Foundation. He was founder and director of the relationship education charity the Bristol Community Family Trust. He is also the author and originator of Let’s Stick Together, a pioneering relationship book and programme for new parents in the post-natal system and Surestart, now backed by the Department for Education. Harry is also the author of SCRAM! a first hand account of the helicopter war in the Falklands. Harry is married to Kate and lives in Somerset. Surviving a marital crisis in the mid-1990s, they have now been married for 25 years and have six children.

Rebecca Probert

Rebecca Probert is Professor of Law at the University of Warwick. Her reassessment of the development of marriage law was published in 2009, and her history of the law's treatment of cohabiting couples, 
The Legal Regulation of Cohabitation, From Fornicators to Family, 1600-2010, in 2012 (both by Cambridge University Press). She has also published a guide to marriage law for those interested in family history.

Brienna Perelli-Harris

Brienna Perelli-Harris was appointed to a lectureship in demography at Southampton in 2011. She currently holds a five-year European Research Council starting grant to study the increase in childbearing within cohabitation in industrialised countries. Working in collaboration with researchers across Europe, the USA and Australia, she is using demographic techniques and in-depth qualitative methods to explore the underlying reasons for the development of new family formation behaviours.

Ayesha Vardag

Ayesha Vardag is managing director of Vardags Solicitors. She made legal history with her landmark win in the Supreme Court case of Radmacher which made prenuptial agreements binding in England and Wales. Since then she has acted in a gamut of pre and post-nups in marriages and civil partnerships for individuals ranging from famous footballers to the most secret of business moguls.

Anne Barlow

Anne Barlow is Professor of Family Law and Policy at Exeter University; she previously practised as a solicitor in London. She has a particular interest in Family Law and Policy, especially the regulation of adult relationships such as cohabitation and marriage. Anne also leads the inter-disciplinary Network on Family, Regulation and Society with colleagues from Bath, Bristol and Cardiff Universities and partner voluntary agencies engaged in family research. Among her recent publications, she co-authored (with J Smithson) an article titled: “Is Modern Marriage a Bargain? Exploring Perceptions of Pre-Nuptial Agreements in England and Wales”.

Deborah Jeff

Deborah Jeff is the Head of the Family Department at Seddons. The majority of her work involves complex financial disputes within divorce and between cohabiting couples, often with offshore elements and intricate taxation issues. Deborah regularly works with psychologists and counsellors to ensure clients and their children navigate the separation process in the healthiest way possible. She has considerable experience in children issues, such as contact, residence, child abduction and paternity testing. She is a qualified collaborative lawyer and often provides legal commentary for the national press.