Cohabitation law reform and its impact on marriage: evidence from Australia and Europe

02 JUL 2007

Kathleen Kiernan, University of York, Anne Barlow, University of Exeter, and Rosangela Merlo, RPR Consulting, Australia. Does the extension of marriage-equivalent rights and responsibilities to cohabiting couples undermine the institution of marriage? This debate has been in the public arena in several jurisdictions recently. When people decide whether to marry or cohabit are they simply reacting to legal incentives? Or is any decline in marriage no more than a continuation of a general underlying social trend?

Using data gathered from Australia and several European countries on the introduction of cohabitation legislation and marriage rates, and comparing it with similar research in the UK, the relationship between legislative reform and behaviour in this area has been examined by Kathleen Kiernan and Anne Barlow. The full statistics and analysis, and their conclusions, can be seen in June [2007] International Family Law.

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