Reasons to be single

Office for National StatisticsThe Office for National Statistics reported yesterday that the number of marriages in England and Wales decreased by 10% from the previous year, to the lowest number since 1896. Sounds pretty dramatic, although the ONS does point out that a change in the law from 1 February 2005 designed to discourage 'sham marriages' may have been one of many factors that contributed to the drop.

As The Times points out today, the opposition parties are gleefully going to use the data as evidence that Labour policies have hastened the demise of the institution of marriage. However, the article goes on to quote Jenny North, head of public policy at Relate, who suggests a more prosaic reason - the increasing cost of weddings. No doubt there are a number of reasons for the decline, but I would like to suggest another, from my experience as a divorce lawyer: the increasing perception amongst men that they will be treated unfairly if the marriage breaks down, fuelled by lurid media reports of high-profile divorces where this appears to be the case, whether or not it is, indeed, the case.


  1. Good points, John, and all no doubt contributing in a small part to the fall over the course of one year, but speaking as a wedding co-ordinator I think the main reason is much more prosaic.

    Before 2005, I guess that the number of Britons marrying abroad (and thus never in the ONS stats) was roughly equalled by the numbers of non-Europeans marrying in the UK. Think of the hoards of Brits marrying on some hot beach, and the hoards of Americans marrying in a Scottish castle.

    The 2005 measures effectively outlawed 'destination weddings' to the UK (what American couple wants to fill in multiple intrusive questions and supply bank details just to marry on holiday?) so removed thousands from the statistics.

    Our overseas business plumetted at that point and I know many Scottish companies that made the majority of their business that way are really suffering.

    The emphasis on 'sham marriages' has clouded the real effects methinks!

  2. It's one thing to have to decide who gets the living room furniture and who has to buy a new sofa. It's another thing to be forced to retire and potentially close your business because of an overzealous judge.

    As a woman of modest yet comfortable means and my own business, I would think twice before marrying under UK laws unless my husband was much wealthier, in which case it seems that’s the country for me! But honestly, isn’t it a really dated and offensive concept that some women should expect a meal ticket to the grave and beyond when their marriage to a successful self-made man fails?

    And surely it’s wrong that the man’s business and his employees should suffer if a stunningly high award is made to his wife. I would certainly want and expect my marriage to work out, but isn't divorce traumatic enough without having to fire your workers, too? And in a case like this one the chap is even going to have to sell shares in his own company...what kind of effect with that have on his business and the market in general?


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