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Is love a reality or a reality show?

25th July 2017

Now this year’s series of Love Island on ITV has drawn to a close, I am left thinking about what it means to be in a ‘relationship’ in the 21st century.

Whether or not we are willing to admit it, millions of us have tuned in to watch a television show that brings the pursuit of love, sex and the inevitable explosive breakups directly from a sun-drenched Mediterranean hideaway into our living rooms. We have watched Kem and Amber fall in love and plan a future together, while Chris and Olivia have broken up and got back together more times than we were able to count. Television programmes like Love Island show us just how much our idea of courting and romance has changed in recent years. 

As many of our relationships become ever more fleeting, we seem to have reinvented the way we live together – increasingly, cohabitation is seen as the norm and marriage as the exception: the number of unmarried couples has doubled since the mid-1990s to stand at nearly three million; marriage rates are down by 43 per cent since the 1970s; divorce rates are currently holding steady at 40 per cent.

So what does this tell us? According to some marriage and partnership experts it is not evidence that society no longer believes in commitment, rather that our patterns of commitment are changing. At the same time, however, almost nothing has changed in the way the law treats cohabiting couples.

Scarily, statistics show that 25 per cent of people living with a partner believe they have the same legal protection as married couples – but currently in English law there is no such status as ‘common-law spouse’.

In fact, very little protection is offered to the weaker party when a cohabiting relationship breaks down, regardless of the number of years the pair has been together or whether there are children involved. In contrast, when married couples divorce the starting point for dealing with the finances is always an assumption assets will be shared equally between the parties.

Until our legislation catches up with the reality of modern life, many live-in couples may see a cohabitation agreement as their best option.

Cohabitation agreements offer a legal framework that sets out the detail of their living together arrangements in the present, and establishes each party’s rights over property, investments, personal belongings – and the welfare of any children – should their relationship falter in the future.

If you would like further information about whether a cohabitation agreement may be right for you, or have a question about any other aspect of family law, call our Chichester office in confidence on 01243 786668 or email the team directly at info@georgeide.co.uk

Tina Day. Head of divorce and family.

Family Law, General, George Ide, News
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