The 2017 figures for divorce rates have just been released, and show that the divorce rates are the lowest since 1973.
But are people getting married less?
51% of the population over 16 years of age have “married” as their marital status. However, people are still marrying less. This is especially noticeable amongst millennials who are leaving marriage to when they are older. Up until the age of 34, the majority of men state their marital status as “Single”. From age of 35 upwards, married takes over as the dominant marital status. For women, it is slightly earlier. The majority of women remain single until 29. From 30 years of age upward, the majority of women use “married” as their marital status.
The differences between male and female marital status across age groups are mainly due to men are a few years older when they marry than women. And women live longer than men.
This seems to be due to the fact that people are marrying less. More people are cohabiting rather than getting married. There are less social pressures to get married now. People are prioritising other commitments above marriage like education and buying a house and travel. Even starting a family now has a higher priority to marriage, which 50 years ago would be inconceivable.
Are there still benefits to marriage?
Apart from the enjoyable experience of the wedding and the honeymoon, there are some benefits provided by the government to married couples:
Marriage allowance (doesn’t apply if either spouse is a higher-rate taxpayer)
Married couples can save up to £230 in tax this current financial year through the marriage allowance. Here, a spouse earning less than £11,500 a year can transfer £1,150 of their personal tax-free allowance to their other half. The higher earning spouse must only be earning between £11,001 and £45,000. If one is earning more than £45,000 then this benefit is ignored.
Transfer of assets free of capital gains tax
When an individual sells an asset for a profit, it can realise up to £11,300 in gains in the tax year before a tax charge becomes due. Assets can be transferred freely between spouses/ civil partners with no liability to tax before the sale of an item. They can utilise their combined capital gains tax allowance (two x £11,300) to incur the lowest capital gains tax charge. By splitting assets before a sale, a couple could potentially save thousands in tax. This option is not available to unmarried couples.
Big gain on death
Unmarried couples can pass assets valued up to £325,000 upon death. Anything above that is subject to 40% inheritance tax. Therefore, if a partner is left a house that far exceeds this value, for example, they could end up having to sell it.
However, a deceased spouse / civil partner can pass an estate of any worth to the surviving spouse without immediate tax consequences. Furthermore, any unused inheritance tax nil rate band by the deceased can be passed to his / her beloved spouse for their use in the future; creating a potential nil rate band of £650,000 for the survivor. From 6 April 2017, the residence nil rate band (RNRB) was introduced and a married spouse is now able to potentially claim a further £200,000, resulting in £850,000 combined. Furthermore, the RNRB will increase in £25,000 increments (per individual) during each of the proceeding three tax-years, until it reaches £175,000 by April 2020.
Gifting rules don’t apply to spouses
If you give money or assets to someone during your lifetime it may be classed as a “potentially exempt transfer” or PET. However, should your death occur within seven years from the date of the gift, your beneficiary may be liable to inheritance tax. However, a gift to your spouse or civil partner is ignored for inheritance tax purposes altogether.
So there are several benefits to being married, but does being married to the right person outweigh these financial benefits?
Divorce for over 45s increasing
Compared with 2015, divorce rates in 2017 has increased for men aged 45 years and over and for women aged 50 years and over. See here or more possible reasons for this increase in divorce in this age group.
Same-sex divorce rate increases 3-fold from 2016
The number of same-sex divorces has increased from 112 in 2016 to 338 in 2017. 3/4 of same-sex couples divorcing were female.
The rates are much lower than opposite-sex couples as same-sex marriages have only been legal since 2014. Same-sex divorces started being recorded since 2015.