Starter marriage and its implications in family law

8th March 2015 by


When the latest annual ONS (Office for National Statistics) figures for divorce in England and Wales were published in 2011 they revealed the lowest level of marriage dissolution since 1974. However, family solicitors and relationship experts had already acknowledged that this was possibly due to fewer couples getting married in the early part of the 21st Century.

Still, a surprising divorce rate figure came to light in that the marriages of 25 to 29-year-olds were twice as likely to fail as any other age group and these spouses also spent less time trying to resolve their differences before commencing divorce proceedings.

The rise of the starter marriage
Long-term figures show that the number of first marriages which do not end in separation or divorce is falling when compared to the previous generation and relationship experts maintain that this is because society no longer attaches the same stigma to divorce as would have been felt in the 1950s and even the so-called liberated 60s.

The concept of the “starter marriage” has been cultivated, particularly in the USA, as a result of the prominent reporting of the short marriages of many young celebrities, who divorce within five years and usually before the birth of any babies.

By way of explanation for the phenomenon, experts suggest that the idea of life-long marriage is irreconcilable with modern society’s liberal notions of choice and self-fulfilment.

Rachel Morris, psychotherapist and author of The Single Parent’s Handbook, said, “It is completely at odds with modern messages of choice and freedom and ambition.

“Nobody wants to settle. People realise that they grow and change every ten years. How are we supposed to promise someone that we will spend the rest of our lives loving them no matter who they become or who we become?”

Although there are many reasons why people get married and divorced, and even though modern preconceptions no longer appear to firmly hold that marriage should be for life, divorce can still be distressing and financially damaging if legal advice is not sought at the appropriate stages.

Family solicitors in marriage planning and for divorce advice
Just as the idea of the starter marriage is beginning to be accepted in British culture, the notion that thinking ahead about a possible divorce or relationship breakdown is unromantic or pessimistic is no longer the case, but rather it is seen as sensible financial planning.

Young prospective spouses, especially those with large incomes or forthcoming inheritances, should always seek the advice of an experienced family solicitor who will be able to assist them in the drawing up of a sound pre-nuptial agreement.

When ruling upon a financial settlement on divorce the family court in England and Wales will examine the contents of all pre- or post- nuptial agreements on a case-by-case basis and, as long as the agreement is fair and both couples have received proper legal advice before signing, in most cases, the contents of a marital property agreement will be upheld.

If there is no pre-nuptial agreement, the court will take into account the length of the marriage, whether there are any dependents, and who brought what assets to the marriage. The court will then decide a fair settlement on these criteria, amongst others, examining each divorce based on its individual circumstances.

For some young couples a collaborative divorce may be preferred, where all parties to the divorce, including the divorce lawyers, sign an agreement whereby they commit to resolve the divorce in an amicable and respectful manner, without the need to go to court.

Healys’ family solicitors for sound legal advice on pre-nuptial agreements or divorce
Whether your marriage is yet to take place or is of two or 42 years’ duration we understand that certain family issues require expert advice.

Healys’ specialist family solicitors in London and Brighton have a proven track record in successfully advising and representing clients in a wide range of sensitive family law issues and we approach all pre-nuptial and relationship breakdown issues with a constructive and focused view, while always striving to ensure our clients’ interests are paramount.

Whatever your issue, you can rely on us to deal with your case sympathetically, efficiently and always in confidence.

Call direct to Catherine Taylor on 01273 669 124 or e-mail on