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Author: Rebecca Probert

Over the last 50 years, marriage in England and Wales has shifted from near-universality to being merely one option. A ‘marriage divide’ has emerged, with the likelihood of marriage being affected by education and income. While few of those marrying cite economic or legal factors as a motivation, the perceived need to attain a certain level of financial security may delay marriage for others, and minor financial incentives such as transferable tax allowances are unlikely to alter this. This article looks at the evidence of the marriage divide and considers whether government policies have the potential to influence people’s decision as to whether or not to marry.

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Author: Rebecca Probert

This chapter explores the development of different categories of marriage: non, void and valid. It argues that it is crucial to understand the evolution of the concept of ‘non-marriage’ in order to appreciate its legal necessity today in light of the current state of the law. It also suggests that a correct understanding the evolution of this category of marriage will enable reform to minimise the likelihood of a wedding either resulting in a void marriage or no marriage at all. Finally, it proposes options for reform.

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Status, Similarities and Solutions

Cohabiting couples and those entering religious-only marriages all too often end up with inadequate legal protection when the relationship ends. Yet, despite this shared experience, the linkages and overlaps between these two groups have largely been ignored in the legal literature.

Based on wide-ranging empirical studies, this timely book brings together scholars working in both areas to explore the complexities of the law, the different ways in which individuals experience and navigate the existing legal framework and the potential solutions for reform.

Illuminating pressing implications for social policy, this is an invaluable resource for policy makers, practitioners, researchers and students of family law.

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COVID-19-related restrictions had an enormous impact on weddings in 2020. For three months, weddings were effectively prohibited, and requirements for social distancing, hand-sanitising and face coverings existed throughout England and Wales for the rest of the year. In August 2020, we conducted a survey of couples who were planning to marry between March and December 2020. This article focuses on how many respondents had postponed their wedding, and what they said about their reasons for doing so. We analyse their responses according to the significance attached to three alternative meanings of a wedding: an event for family and friends, a traditional ceremony that has to be conducted in a particular way, and the individualistic ‘perfect day’. We found that many couples attach considerable importance to who attends their weddings and that some traditions are very important to them, but few responses supported the notion that weddings are principally extravagant displays.

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This chapter sums up the state of debate in the field. It highlights the problems with the current law as discussed throughout the book and emphasises the need for major reform. It ends on an optimistic note by drawing attention to the current Law Commission project to design effective marriage laws.

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This introductory chapter focusses on the status of cohabitants and those in religious only marriages, the similarities in how they are treated by the law and the potential solutions that could be adopted. It shows that law reform is needed in the light of new and evolving relationship norms and the poor outcomes on relationship breakdown for all cohabiting couples, including those in religious-only marriages. It considers legal solutions which fall broadly within two categories: (1) amend wedding laws to facilitate simpler procedures for legal recognition thereby encouraging more couples to legally marry; and (2) extend family law rights available to all legally recognised couples to include those in cohabiting relationships.

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