Written evidence submitted by Mrs Harper [HAB0085]


Please see this as a timely opportunity and a demonstrated need to educate young people and society on:

  1. The benefits of marriage
  2. How cohabitees should make good legal decisions, to not fall into difficulty.

So often now cohabitation is the go-to choice. It is sad that cohabiting has become so unquestioned and yet people are not formally educated on the benefits of marriage, for which there is now much evidence:

Marriage has health benefits (Married couples report healthier lifestyles and better health outcomes, with smoking and recreational drug usage much less common among married women than cohabitees. Married men have better cardiovascular health, better cancer survival rates, lower risk of depression and greater satisfaction in retirement)

Marriage provides stability for children this supports mental health and the fabric of society.

Cohabitation is much more unstable than marriage. (By the time they turn five, 53% of children of cohabiting parents will have experienced their parents’ separation; however, for five-year-olds with married parents, only 15% have experienced their parent’s separation).

Interestingly Marriages last longer when couples have not cohabited first.

The same legal rights should not be given to cohabiting couples as given to married couples. Giving legal rights to cohabitees will encourage cohabitation or give a further excuse to put off making a lasting commitment and so will escalate more family breakdown and therefore heartache in society. Family breakdown already costs the public purse over £50bn each year.

Marriage should not be legally undermined by weaker alternatives, because of the positive outcomes Marriage brings. Most of the rights attached to marriage flow naturally from the lifelong commitment which is a wonderful thing to be celebrated and supported, as a couple commit publicly to each other for life. Since a couple have committed to one another until death separates them, the law automatically provides for when such a death occurs.

The answer is to educate, on the benefits of marriage and financial awareness for cohabitees e.g. address via a will. The difficulties experienced by cohabiting couples are a consequence of the lack of commitment that cohabiting brings, the answer is not to financially reward unstable cohabitation.

Marriage is easily defined; cohabitation may be less easily defined.

Please take a long-term view on this; Where do we want to be as a society in many years’ time? Look at the big picture of long term, stable relationships. When we know the benefits of marriage let us keep marriage as being of central importance to society, ensuring everyone is educated on the research about the statistically positive outcomes marriage brings and the legal implications of cohabitation explained, so people can make good legal decisions e.g. via a will if choosing to cohabite, and not fall into difficulties.

June 2021