Deborah JeffFounding Partner, Family Department
UK Cohabitation and Marriage Survey• A unique nation-wide survey of marriage, cohabitation and commitment, commissioned by Seddons in collaboration with The Marriage Foundation.• Undertaken on our behalf by OnePoll between December 2012 and January 2013.• 3,500 adults polled across 9 regions in England and Wales.
UK-wide SurveyNational survey results for our 13 key questions arecross-referenced by additional data such as:• Gender• Region• Age• Relationship status• Employment status, partners employment status;• Salary, partners salary• Dependents.
Demographic• Covered nine regions of the UK• 63% female and 37% male. Of these respondents, 48% were already married, 21% were cohabiting and the remainder were single (17%), in a relationship (9%), divorced (3%), widowed (1%) or separated (1%).• Age range: 18-55+• Some 69% of married respondents had children (between one and four), compared to 19% of cohabiting respondents and 5% of singletons. Just over 1% of divorced respondents had children.
Questions we wanted to explore:• Why is the myth of common law marriage so prevalent?• Are shared financial commitments important for a couple?• Do people plan for them?• Do they influence marriage decisions?
Do you hope to be married one day?• More than twice the number of people who didnt want to be married in their lives (23%), did aspire to marry in future (56%), with both genders of respondents answering almost identically (Yes: F-58%,M-53%, No: F23%,M-23%). A quarter of men polled said they werent sure, compared to a fifth of women.• Employment status range, the highest proportion of respondents by grouping who said they aspired to be married was by far Students at 73%, with Employed people at 60% and Homemakers at 40%.• After the Retired group, the Unemployed group least likely to want to get married (just 1 in 3).
What shows you’re a couple to family and friends?Respondents answered:• 45% - living together;• 30% - getting married;• 12% - having their child;• 9% - buying a house together.
If cohabiting, why not get married?Reasons given for not tying the knot: a. Cost of the wedding (42%) b. 25% overall were waiting for their partner to ask them, c. 20% just hadnt got around to it yet d. 28% thought marriage wasnt necessary. e. Around 12% - been put off by other peoples divorces. f. 15% - because they couldnt afford to buy a house together. g. 11% - didnt like the expectations that being married to their partner would place on them.
What is the greatest display of commitment in a couple?a. Having partner’s child.b. Closely followed by: getting married, buying a house together and including them in your will .c. Moving in together and opening a joint bank account , lesser signs of commitment to a relationship.d. There was a leap of up to a third in the proportion of people from the age groups within 18-44, to the age groups within 45-55+, who rated the highest way of demonstrating commitment within a relationship by getting married.e. Buying a house together unanimously popular across all age ranges, and having a joint bank account together doubled in importance for the age group 55+, from all other age groups.
Markers of Commitment % rating 10 out of 10 as way of showing commitment within a couple Cohabiting Married Aged 18-24Getting married 35 49 41Moving in together 14 11 13Buying a house together 30 23 25Having a baby 51 41 47Buying a pet together 5 4 6Opening a joint account 7 11 9Including them in your will 20 20 20
Would you happily have children with your partner without a pre-,post- or co-nup?• Split down the middle with 53% saying "Yes" and 47% saying they wouldnt. Slightly more men than women said they would be happy to do this (Yes- M:56%,F52%), compared to 48% of women who said they wouldnt and 44% of men who said they wouldnt.• Nearly 60% of 35 to 44-year-olds would be happy to bring up children this way, but this percentage falls to 44% by 55+.• Response figures were generally the same between people who already had children and those who did not.
Should couples share finances?• 82% thought it was important in a relationship, as opposed to just 18% who said they didnt think it was important.• Almost all married and cohabiting couples shared most of their official financial commitments (current account, mortgage, household bills),• In terms of savings, married couples who shared were nearly double the percentage of those who just lived together.• People who earned more than £50k p/a were significantly more likely than those on lower salaries to share a current or savings account with a partner.
What finances are you sharing?• The three biggest commitments were: a. 49% - a joint bank account ; b. 41% - a joint mortgage or rental agreement; c. 40% - household bills.• Lower priority bills by importance were joint credit cards at 27% and loans for which both partners are responsible (11%).• Respondents were twice as likely to share a credit card with a partner who earned more than £80k p/a as they were with a partner who earned £25k p/a or less.
Have you discussed the fate of shared finances if you were to part?• 82% had not discussed how their shared financial obligations would be dealt with in the event of a break-up. This figure was equal for men and women. (Yes-F:18%,M:19% -- No- F:82%,M:81%).• Likelihood of discussing obligations decreases with age from 18-24 at 21%, down to the last age group of 55+, by which time this had fallen to just 14%.• Percentages were similar regardless of whether in a married, cohabiting or non-cohabiting relationship. They were also similar regardless of whether they had children or not.
Should separating spouses get more of an ex-partner’s assets than a cohabitee?• Nearly a third of respondents thought that married people should be entitled to a greater share of each others assets and future income than cohabitees;• But: 42% thought this should be the same whether you are married or cohabiting.• Around a quarter of people (26%) said they didnt know how the legal system governing who gets what on separation should operate.
Do divorce courts’ powers to decide howassets are divided put people off marriage?• Nearly a third - courts powers on divorce were more likely to discourage marriage.• 58% who said it wouldnt make any difference to them, or they didnt know. Figures for this were roughly the same for responses from men and women.• Earners of £50k+ p/a believed that courts ruling on how assets are split on divorce was more likely to encourage marriage.• More than three times the number of respondents whose partner was unemployed thought court judgement on assets would discourage them from getting married, compared to those whose partner was employed.
Could you learn to relate better?• 69% said "Yes", with a quarter of those admitting there were issues they should discuss but dont or cant, a quarter saying they could learn to handle disagreements better, and a fifth saying they could learn to understand or support each other better.• Figures were broadly the same for both sexes when asked these questions; except for 35% of men saying they couldnt learn to relate better, compared to 28% of women who said they couldnt.• Interestingly, figures were largely consistent across the whole spectrum of age groups.
Preparation for a Union• 83% did not access any relationship education or marriage preparation before or in the first few years of marriage or cohabitation.• Divorced respondents = highest proportion among all groups at 92% with no pre-relationship preparation.• 25% of students (the highest proportion) said that they had sought advice.• Respondents were considerably more likely to have sought pre-marital/cohabitation advice when earning 50k+ p/a.
“We are deeply concerned that so fewpeople access relationships education at anearly stage in the relationship. It is goodthat most people recognise that they canlearn to relate better, and we arecommitted to promoting better access torelationships education.”Sir Paul Coleridge, The Marriage Foundation