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How Have Family Relationships Changed in Stevenage? – Protecting Assets with A Prenuptial Agreement or Cohabitation Agreement

Date Added 17.10.23

Those planning on getting married are not likely to think about what would happen should the relationship break down. However, with 42% of marriages overall, and nearly 10% of marriages in Stevenage ending in divorce in 2021 alone, putting in place marital agreements like a prenuptial agreement (prenup) or postnuptial agreement (postnup) can give you peace of mind, especially in cases of pre-existing financial assets, or where there are children from a previous relationship to provide for.

It is also quite common for couples not to get married but instead sharing the cost of a property and cohabiting. In fact, according to the latest census report, over 20% of families in Stevenage are cohabiting with children, and there was a decrease in the number of registered marriages and civil partnerships. In these dynamics, it is vital to understand your legal rights and what legal documents you can put in place to safeguard against costly disputes should you separate from your partner.

In this blog, our Stevenage family law solicitors look at a few statistics from the Stevenage 2021 Census and answer some frequently asked questions regarding legal rights for married and unmarried couples.

Family Households in Stevenage – How Family Life Has Changed in Stevenage: Census 2021

According to the latest statistics from the 2021 Census, the family structure of households in Stevenage underwent some changes compared to 2011. The percentage of households with a couple but no children decreased slightly from 16.5% in 2011 to 16.1% in 2021. Equally, households with a couple and dependent children also saw a minor decline, dropping from 21.5% to 21.3% during the same period. Meanwhile, single-family households containing a couple with non-dependent children increased from 6.5% to 7.2%.

Percentage of households by household composition, Stevenage:  

Percentage of houshold by houshold composition, Stevenage

Image Source: Office for National Statistics – 2011 Census and Census 2021

What Are the Legal Rights of Unmarried Couples?

Even if couples have lived together for several years or have children, the law does not currently recognise “common law husbands and wives”, and they are not afforded the same rights and responsibilities as a married couple or those in a civil partnership. For example, there is no right to claim spousal maintenance, and there is no right to claim a share of the other person’s pension.

Property Law and Trusts Law strictly determines financial matters between partners and, if children are involved, the Children Act 1989.

Seeking legal advice and putting in place contracts, including a Declaration of Trust or a Cohabitation Agreement, can give you peace of mind. A contract can help couples avoid misunderstandings, know where they stand with the home whilst living together, and help guide couples if the relationship breaks down.  It can also save a considerable amount in legal fees.

Find out more about the legal rights and responsibilities of people living with their partner:

Cohabitation Breakdown (Opposite Sex and Same Sex Relationships)

Changing Relationships in Stevenage – How Has Married Life Changed in Stevenage: Census 2021

In 2021, 9.8% of adults in Stevenage (aged 16 and over) reported that they had gone through a divorce or dissolved a civil partnership. This figure was a slight decrease from the 10.1% reported in 2011. Stevenage experienced one of the East of England’s joint third-largest reductions in the percentage of adults who had divorced or dissolved a civil partnership, tying with Watford. Registered marriages or civil partnerships decreased from 46.4% to 43.9%.

It is important to note that these figures encompass both same-sex marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships, which were not legally recognised in England and Wales in 2011. However, since 2014, same-sex marriages have been legally recognised, and opposite-sex civil partnerships have been recognised since 2019.

Percentage of usual residents aged 16 years and over by legal partnership status, Stevenage:

Percentage of usual residents aged 16 years and over by legal partnership status, Stevenage

Image Source: Office for National Statistics – 2011 Census and Census 2021

What is a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement or ‘prenup’ is an agreement entered into by a couple planning to marry (or postnuptial agreement ‘postnup’ if entered into after marriage). It sets out an agreement between the parties on how their finances will be dealt with in the event of a marriage breakdown. A common situation in which such an agreement might be desirable is when one party brings significantly greater financial assets into the marriage than the other. Prenups are also particularly worthy of consideration for couples who are perhaps entering a second marriage but have children from a first marriage or previous relationship and would, therefore, wish to protect some assets for the benefit of those children.

It is important to note that in the UK, no legal statute formally ensures enforcement of premarital agreements in the same way that other countries do. However, the family court in England and Wales has given guidance on the steps that can be taken when a prenup is entered into to ensure that there is the best possible chance of this being adhered to should the marriage end. There have been several cases in recent years where a premarital agreement has been upheld or carried significant weight in family courts deciding how to divide assets.

Find out more prenuptial agreements or post-nuptial agreements:

Prenuptial And Post-Nuptial Agreements

Family Law Solicitors Stevenage – Talk to Tollers

For further advice regarding prenuptial agreements or cohabitation agreements, please get in touch with one of our family law specialists on 01604 258788.

Tollers family solicitors will always aim to minimise conflict in dealing with your family matters as far as possible. If you require assistance and want to look at ways of reducing conflict…Talk to tollers on 01604 258558. Our experienced family team is on hand to guide you through and facilitate you.

The statistics on changes to family households in Stevenage have been taken from the latest 2021 Census report. The full report can be found here:

How life has changed in Stevenage: Census 2021

This blog post is not intended to be taken as advice or acted upon, and information may have changed since publication. If you are seeking family law legal advice, don’t hesitate to contact our team of solicitors.

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