Divorce numbers are reducing! But is this good news?
The government’s recently released quarterly family court statistics show a continuing downward trend in the number of divorces. Couples divorcing between April and June 2017 are 10% less than on the same time last year. If this continues, the number of divorces will drop under 100,000 per year for the first time since the early 1970s.
Good news right? However, this is actually a reflection of fewer people marrying, rather than marriages succeeding better. Cohabitation is the fastest growing family type in the UK, but despite numerous recommendations and reports, there is still little or no legal protection for a separating cohabitant, unless they have made specific arrangements with their partner.
Cohabitation agreements can be a valuable protection, but many people are unaware of the advantages of using them, and by doing nothing they are potentially putting their own finances and general welfare at risk.
What is a cohabitation agreement?
A cohabitation agreement is a deed, a contract, between the couple, setting out any details they want to agree. This often includes how any home is to be owned, how costs are to be shared, and what contributions each is to make. It should sensibly include provisions as to what is to happen in the event that the relationship breaks down: this may seem an unromantic way to start a relationship, but this is the only chance there may be to create an effective legal protection for the less financially secure.
Avoiding financial disputes
Also shown in the latest statistics is that there were approximately 26,000 divorce petitions, but only about 10,000 divorce financial orders. This implies that, on average, only about 40% of divorcing couples have taken steps to avoid the risk of future financial claims being brought, possibly even years later.
Avoiding future disputes can be quite simple: 72% of the financial orders made were not contested, showing that the couple had reached an agreement that the court then approved without any formal hearing. Only 8% of all orders made were contested to a final hearing, the remainder having started as contested but having settled afterwards.
If you are considering getting married then approving a pre or post-nuptial agreement in advance can also help reduce the number of contentious family disputes.