Married, divorced, no children and no house are just some of the pressures and life experiences that today’s twenty somethings are going through according to the recently published statistics.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that couples in their 20’s are the most likely group to divorce with those between 25 – 29 having twice the average divorce rate across all age groups.
This appears surprising when a further study by First Direct showed that today’s twenty somethings needed to earn 55% more than their parents to enjoy the equivalent lifestyle at the same age.
The average man or woman in their mid-twenties needed a salary of £39,720 to buy a house, pay for a wedding and have children – all achieved at the same age by their parents generation. The current average earnings for this age group is £25,500. So if money is tight why then is the average cost of a wedding continuing to rise with current figures quoted at £15-20,000. Surely in today’s economic climate this is seen as excessive or is it down to the traditional family values adopted by parents of financing their child’s wedding given that they have worked longer and are perhaps financially secure? Does this mean that after paying for a wedding for their child, that they can now expect that child to return home in a few years if they are within this age bracket?
The wedding cost may explain why the number of marriages in England and Wales, 232,990, fell to its lowest level since 1895. Or perhaps the social acceptance of couples cohabitation is the real reason.
The divorce rate has also fallen since its peak in 2003 of 153,652 divorces with only 113,949 registered in 2009. The UK national average of 10.5 people divorcing out of every 1000 married individuals has reduced slightly for the fifth year in a row but the alarming figure for the 25 – 29 year olds suggest that their attitudes to divorce are vastly different to that of their parents with 21.7 men and 25.1 women per 1000, from this age group, divorcing in 2009.
There are obviously statistics on marriages and divorces but relationships will continue for unmarried individuals where no statistics are produced. The ONS state that almost half of all children born in the UK are now born to unmarried parents. It is clearly time for Ministers to consider changes to legislation with regard to cohabiting couples.
In this regard I do not agree with cohabiting couples having the same rights as those of a married couple but clearly where children are concerned the current legislation has its limitations and reform is therefore necessary to protect the vulnerable.
With all of the statistical evidence of reduction of marriages, fewer divorces and changes to the law involving couples having to attend mediation, clearly my role as a family lawyer will continue to be ever-changing.