Marriage and Non-marital relationships – Constructing a Complementary Hierarchy Through a Comparative Study

Arthur Wong

Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong


pp. 1-25

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Abstract: The fact that divorce is more common than ever suggests that a flurry of affection can be dazzling as it may blind people to make a commitment they cannot hold. To avoid the repercussions of divorce, a substantial amount of couples around the world prefers to simply live together without binding themselves to the institution of marriage. While it is a welcoming trend that relationships short of marriage are increasingly recognized globally, this article wishes to highlight the dilemma of aligning too closely the category of recognized unmarried cohabitation with marriage. It would be respectfully submitted that in order to offer couples a meaningful alternative option on the “menu”, the gulf between marriage and cohabitation must be maintained and the element of protection, especially when the interest of children is at stake, would better be achieved through institutional design. In other words, marriage and legally-recognized non-marital relationship should be treated as two interacting and complementary regimes serving different purposes. Such a suggestion is proposed after studying, evaluating, analyzing and comparing the latest legal systems regulating heterosexual relationships in four different countries – the Netherlands, France, Australia and England. It is hoped that the selection of these four jurisdictions could represent a wide enough spectrum to facilitate more constructive discussions on this controversial topic.

Keywords : Comparative law, French law, Australian law, Dutch law, Common law, Family law, European family law, International family law, European law.

Arthur Wong holds both a Bachelor of Laws (2015) and a degree in Social Sciences (Government and Laws) (2013) from the University of Hong Kong. He was awarded Dean’s Honours List twice, for the academic years 2012-2013 and 2013-2014. He is an associate at Allen & Overy Hong Kong office. Mail:

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