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A Look at Current Marriage Trends and the Law

A Look at Current Marriage Trends and the Law

Trends are, by definition, changing all the time. But trends are typically gradual. It takes time for sweeping changes to occur, and we can usually see the change coming.

The COVID pandemic has accelerated some trends and completely derailed others, resulting in significant shifts in many areas of life, including legal marriages. Find out the latest data surrounding marriage and some surprising facts regarding love in the time of COVID.

Looking Back

It is often easier to look back at where we have been to understand where we are now. The number of adults between 18 and 34 years of age who were legally married plummeted from 59% in 1978 to 29% in 2018. The 2018 data is still several years before the pandemic, but the number of married adults in the U.S., particularly younger adults in their late teens and 20s, has been on the decline for many years.

People are still getting married, but they may live with a partner beforehand. Marriage rates are down, but that does not mean relationships are on the way out. Research shows that now more than ever, many adults are forgoing or delaying marriage.

Between 2013 and 2017, 59% of adults aged 18 – 44 years had lived with a romantic partner while not being married. At the same time, 50% of the people in this same age group had been married at some point during their life.

These stats are a departure from just a decade earlier when the majority of adults had been married but had not lived with a partner before marriage. Many couples are deciding to live together without being married.

Young adults are more likely to condone cohabiting or living with a partner instead of getting married first, so it makes sense that most individuals living with a partner are younger.

Benefits of Marriage

Cohabiting couples are missing out on the financial and legal benefits of marriage, such as marital tax deduction, joint filing, social security benefits, inheritance benefits, and even the ability to make legal and medical decisions for one another. These benefits may not be as exciting as planning a wedding, but they help ensure each partner is provided for and protected in various circumstances.

Interestingly, another benefit to marriage is that married couples report higher levels of trust and satisfaction in their relationship when compared to non-married partners. Marriage may not be as standard as it once was, but it leads to a better relationship for people who support the concept.

The Impact of COVID on Marriage

The pandemic has been hard for everyone, but research indicates that married couples have particularly struggled, with 34% of married individuals reporting increased marital stress due to COVID.

Common sources of COVID-related stress include economic insecurity, caused mainly by one or both partners losing a job or facing financial cutbacks. Although, the stress of remote learning, lockdown, and the unknown are all contributing factors to pandemic-related stress.

The ramification of COVID on marriage extends beyond existing unions, as many couples are opting to wait to say, ‘I do.’ Some states have reported an 18% drop in the number of marriage licenses issued during 2020. A leading reason for this drop is likely the difficulties of planning a wedding during a pandemic.

Restrictions on the size of gatherings, availability of vendors due to staff shortages, health concerns for guests, and again economic insecurity are all reasons many couples are waiting to schedule their nuptials.

Non-Traditional Solutions

Although, emerging data suggests that during the COVID lockdown, some couples held ceremonies that are not legally binding as a way to show their commitment at a time when large-scale weddings are difficult, if not impossible.

From a legal standpoint, these couples are cohabiting since they are not legally married. Couples who are not legally married will have to decide if they will have a legal ceremony to have the benefits and protections that come with a marriage certificate.

When Marriages Do Not Last

Preliminary information suggests the divorce rate will drop since the number of married people reporting their marriage is in trouble has declined. Fewer unhappy marriages will likely translate into fewer divorces. However, the divorce rate also dropped in response to the Great Recession, and there were was a slight uptick in divorces once the economy bounced back.

Divorce rates will likely drop, for now, only to increase once the future is more certain. Several high-profile divorces have brought attention to divorce among older couples and led to an increase in demand for a gray divorce lawyer. The stress of the pandemic coupled with financial security more common for older couples is likely the cause of increased divorce amongst these couples.

What to Expect

The pandemic has left a lasting impression, and we will continue to learn more about the long-term ramifications of COVID with time, but there are some positive points. Many couples report stronger marriages as we move through the pandemic.

COVID has brought many challenges, but couples that have faced hardships and obstacles as a united front report a deeper level of commitment. While it is unfortunate so many relationships were tested, it appears that many have come out stronger.