Downgrade marriage, family judge suggests

A family judge says marriage and cohabitation should be put on the same legal footing when relationships break down – but a newspaper columnist says he is “utterly and sadly mistaken”.

Sir Nicholas Mostyn’s comments were reportedly aimed at Sir Paul Coleridge – a former High Court judge who has spoken out in favour of traditional marriage.

Commenting that there should be no difference in deciding family legal disputes if there “happens to be a marriage” involved, Sir Nicholas said he supported extending the existing system to “the unmarried, warts and all”.

Mountain of research

He also claimed that there was no evidence to prove marriage is more stable than a cohabiting relationship.

However, columnist Sarah Vine said there was a “mountain of academic research proving beyond doubt that married couples are healthier, wealthier, happier and less likely to break-up than co-habiting ones”.

“All these benefits also apply to the children of married parents”, she added, explaining that she “profoundly” disagreed with the judge.

Trust and honesty

Vine explained the major difference between marriage and cohabitation: “In one, you have solemnly sworn before all your friends and family to look after each other for the rest of your lives. The other is little more than playing house”.

The columnist continued: “A marriage built on the right foundations – trust, honesty, compromise, mutual respect – will weather even the wildest storm.

“When you are both stretched to breaking point – by children, careers, life – marriage is what enables you to survive.”


Sir Nicholas, “despite his clever rhetoric, is utterly and sadly mistaken”, Vine concluded.

Last year research from the Marriage Foundation said only one in eight children born to cohabiting couples will reach the age of 16 with their parents still together and unmarried.

The report also showed that 45 per cent of teenagers aged 13-15 are no longer living with both parents, and that 93 per cent of parents who do stay together are married.

Harry Benson, communications director of the Marriage Foundation said the report provided “solid evidence” that married parents are more stable than unmarried parents.