According to research, millennials are three times less likely to get married than their grandparents. Despite the legalisation of same sex marriages in 2014, which opened up the option of marriage to many more individuals, only 28,440 marriages were registered in Scotland in 2017. By contrast, 38,501 marriages were registered in 1980. With the declining marriage rate comes a declining divorce rate. In 2016/17 just 7,938 divorces were registered in Scotland, compared with 13,767 in 2006-2007.

There are a number of possible reasons for declining marriage rates. Millenials are taking time to consider whether marriage is the right decision for them, with many preferring to be financially secure and focus on their careers before tying the knot. There is also much less societal pressure to get married, resulting in marriage being something that is rushed into less and less. Many couples are choosing to live together as a “next step”, rather than get married. Of those who do choose to marry, many have lived together for a number of years beforehand.

For some couples, the idea of being together but financially independent of each other is a motivating factor for them not to get married. Some are surprised to find that even if they are not married to each other, their partner may be able to make a claim against them in the event of relationship breakdown in future. It is possible to enter into a legal agreement to effectively opt out of this legislation or to regulate how certain assets will be treated on separation. Such agreements are particularly important if the couple own a house together and one has contributed more funds to the purchase price than the other. Similarly, you may want to know what your rights are if your partner moves into your property with you. You may not know whether your partner might be able to claim on any inheritance you receive, or if your family business could be a relevant asset when you separate. A cohabitation agreement can cover these situations, and having one can help avoid a dispute ending up in court. Similarly, for those who do decide to tie the knot but still wish clarity as to how their assets might be divided in the event of separation in future, pre-nuptial contracts are becoming increasingly popular .

For more advice on cohabitation and pre-nuptial agreements, please contact our specialist Family Law team.