By Anne Barlow, Simon Duncan, Grace James, Alison Parks

Single heterosexual cohabitation is quickly expanding in Britain and over 1 / 4 of kids are actually born to single cohabiting mom and dad. this isn't simply an immense switch within the approach humans stay in sleek Britain; it's also a political and theoretical marker. a few commentators see cohabitation as proof of egocentric individualism and the breakdown of the kinfolk, whereas others see it as only a much less institutionalized approach within which humans show dedication and construct their households. Politically, 'stable' households are visible as crucial—but does balance easily suggest marriage? at the moment the legislation in Britain keeps vital differences within the means it treats cohabiting and married households and this may have deleterious results at the welfare of youngsters and companions on cohabitation breakdown or the demise of a companion. may still the legislation be replaced to mirror this altering social truth? Or may still it—can it—be used to direct those adjustments? utilizing findings which mix nationally consultant information with in-depth qualitative paintings, the authors learn public attitudes approximately cohabitation and marriage, supply an research of who cohabits and who marries, and examine the level and nature of the 'common legislation marriage fable' (the fake trust that cohabitants have comparable felony rights to married couples). They then discover why humans cohabit instead of marry, what the character in their dedication is to each other and chart public attitudes to criminal switch. within the gentle of this proof, Cohabitation, Marriage and the legislation then evaluates various ideas for felony reform.

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Extra info for Cohabitation, Marriage and the Law: Social Change and Legal Reform in the 21st Century

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Many of the interviewees were vague and/or unwilling to commit to an answer and it transpired that the majority were not sure what the situation was either for married or unmarried couples, rather than simply a lack of knowledge about the legal situation for cohabitants. For example, Patricia, a former cohabitant, living in Cardiff with her son from that relationship, reflected this general uncertainty. She: … didn’t realise that pensions were done as couples anyway. I thought pensions were always individual, I didn’t think they would change if you were a couple or not but I don’t know … Sally, a former cohabitant living in Havant with her son, was also unsure of the legal situation in relation to pensions but thought that it would ‘probably be similar’.

The next two sections will go on to look at these questions in turn. 4 ACQUIRING INFORMATION ABOUT COMMON LAW MARRIAGE We asked interviewees about their sources of legal information in the follow-up survey. Generally, the results point to an informal knowledge world where most respondents get the bulk of their information from friends and family. For example, Emily, a cohabitant of five years who generally believed in common law marriage, saw friends as a major source of information as it was ‘just one of the things that has come up in conversation, like from friends who have been living together’.

Similarly in one study of 173 couples in Cheshire and Staffordshire who were engaged to be married, 69 per cent of those cohabiting thought that living together unmarried had legal consequences (Hibbs et al, 2001). Conversely, the same research found that 41 per cent of all respondents thought marriage would not change the legal nature of their relationship with their partner, and 37 per cent thought that it would not have legal consequences for them with regard to their present or future children (Hibbs et al, 2001: 201).

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