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Do we still need to get married before having a baby?

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Deciding to have a baby is considered a life-altering decision by most people. For many of us, this decision has been outlined step by step. For some couples, one of these steps is marriage, other couples might prefer to get married after having kids or not at all. 

Whatever the decision may be, a research conducted by The Guardian has shown that we consider marriage to be less important than a decade ago. Though, many European countries still require marriage before being able to gain financial support or in some countries even access to Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) such as IVF. Marriage has come with some benefits in the past, but are those still relevant in a modern society?  


The importance of marriage in the past

According to a research conducted by BBC news, three of the main reasons people used to get married between 1900s and 2000s are to have sex, efficiently divide up labor and raise children. Let’s take a deeper look into these reasons in today’s society…

Marriage and sex

Marriage used to be the only relationship in which legitimate sexual relations could take place. Now, largely as a result of the invention of artificial birth control and abortion, this view has changed in the eyes of many Westerners. Which means that having a sexual relationship with someone does not always come with the responsibility of having to raise a child with this person, so the taboo on pre-marital sex has been lifted.

Marriage and financial dependance

Marriage used to have a strong economic component as well. Most of the jobs that existed in the early industrial societies required hard physical labor which men could perform better than women. This led to women depending on men for the income they could not earn themselves. Fortunately, now this imbalance has changed with more and more jobs not requiring hard physical labor anymore and can thus be done by women as well as by men which also means that women can now earn their own income and maintain themselves independently from men.

Marriage and the right to starting a family

Finally, marriage used to be a necessary requirement before starting a family. This was not only a social requirement, but some countries even considered it illegal to have children unmarried. The link between marriage and children’s wellbeing was made in the past because married couples would be able to provide their children with more financial resources, healthcare and better education. 

However, the question remains whether access to financial resources, healthcare and education are still considered the only components necessary for a child to thrive. Besides, according to the future of children association most research analysing the link between marriage and children wellbeing did not take into account other factors since most children raised by single or cohabiting parents are usually from minority groups. Factors such as socioeconomic disadvantages, discrimination and barriers to employment were mostly ignored.

The importance of marriage when accessing IVF and fertility treatment

In our latest Linkedin poll, 75% of the respondents agreed that marriage should not be necessary when deciding to have a baby.

Unfortunately, many European countries still refuse to support unmarried couples in their family forming journey by not providing financial support for Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) or in some countries unmarried couples can not access ART at all. 

For example Germany requires couples to be married before gaining any financial support. Until recently, the UK discriminated against unmarried same-sex couples and single women when it comes to financial support for IVF. However the NHS has now announced this will change as part of the women’s health strategy.

We have seen that marriage did come with advantages in the past, for example economically or most importantly, in a child’s wellbeing. Although both of these arguments have been debunked now that women are able to provide for themselves and according to research, children raised by single and or LGBTQ+ parents perform at least as well as children raised by different-sex parents in school, socially and are just as healthy in 2020.

Are there legal reasons to get married before having a baby?

Getting married before having a baby does have it benefits – particularly when it comes to legalities and finances. A father not always granted automatic parental responsibility after the birth of a child unless they are married to the mother. Additionally, having the same surname will make many experiences easier such as taking your child on holiday.

On top of this, married couples legally become each other’s next of kin and financial support. This means you can occupy a property that’s owned by your spouse and inherit their estate or finances even without a will. This often offers reassurance in the case of an emergency when children are involved.

How can employers help?

European law and legislation has made it hard for alternative couples or singles to start their family forming journey, but you can take a step in the right direction by providing an inclusive fertility benefits program where all employees feel supported when deciding to start a family regardless of marital status. Because starting a family is a right, not a privilege.

Find out more about how to support LGBTQ employees with fertility and what employees need in the workplace. If you’d like to learn about how Apryl can support you in implementing an employee fertility benefits package, get in touch

General advice posted on our blog or website or app is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Apryl makes no warranties regarding treatments, coverage, or chances of success.

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