Changing shape of modern UK families leaves incomes at risk

Article date: 28 December 2013

  • Past experience strengthens family finances and reduces friction over money
  • Almost half of parents with child maintenance income staring at a protection void
  • Wills are often neglected after a break-up

Past relationships are teaching families valuable lessons about managing money but Aviva’s latest Family Finances Report also paints a worrying picture of unprotected incomes and outdated policies.

Aviva’s winter 2013 report explores the growing diversity among UK families fuelled by trends in cohabitation, separation/divorce and remarriage. It reveals:

  • Nearly half of adults who live as part of a modern family* (49%) have experienced at least one previous committed relationship (involving marriage or cohabitation) prior to their current family setup.
  • More than one in six (17%) have had two or more past committed relationships, with 5% having had three or more.
  • More than one in three marriages (34%) is a remarriage for at least one partner, with 15% involving a remarriage for both parties.**
  • Almost a third of two-parent UK families (30%) include one or more children from a previous relationship.
  • The average two-parent family in December 2013 includes 1.63 children from the current relationship and 0.66 children from past relationships. Looking specifically at blended/step-families, these typically feature 2.24 children from past relationships.

Child support income goes unprotected

One in three families with children from past relationships (33%) in December 2013 receives financial support from an ex-partner. This includes 23% who get a regular income from this source and 10% who receive occasional payments.

Regular monthly payments received range from less than £50 per child to more than £1,500, averaging out at £254 per child, per month.

One in three (33%) who receive financial support rely on it to make ends meet, while another 38% would need to make major cutbacks to manage without this income.

However, only one in four (24%) know for definite that their former partner has financial protection - such as life insurance, income protection or critical illness cover - in place. Almost one in five (18%) know their ex-partner’s finances are definitely not covered, while another 30% fear this may be the case.

Wills often neglected after a breakup

With many adults experiencing more than one committed relationship, any change in family circumstances can have a significant impact on financial arrangements.

Updating bank accounts and mortgage/rent agreements take priority when a relationship ends, with just 6% of affected adults failing to make such changes following a separation.

In contrast, almost one in five (19%) whose will has been affected by the end of a relationship are yet to bring this up to date.

Experience breeds stability and harmony – with some exceptions

Among the benefits of past relationship experience, Aviva’s findings suggest those in a new family set-up end up in a more comfortable position financially and are less prone to argue about money.

These ‘new’ families are twice as likely to consider themselves financially better off than worse off, compared to their previous family structure (26%, compared with 14%). And significantly more people experience less financial friction within their current family (18%, compared with 3% who argue about money matters more often than they did before.

Past relationship experience prompts one in five (21%) to make more joint financial arrangements with their current partner, although 18% opt for more independence.  Almost one in three adults (32%) have become more open about their family finances, with just 7% keeping more secrets from a current partner than they did in the past.

One in eight (13%) have postponed the end of a committed relationship because they could not afford to live separately. Of these families, 58% have remained together for financial reasons while the remaining 42% eventually separated.

When relationships have come to an end, more than one in four (27%) found it easy to split their finances, although fewer felt they were able to do so fairly (13%).

Louise Colley, protection distribution director for Aviva says:

“The UK is now home to an increasingly varied and diverse range of family set-ups. Cohabitation, separation and remarriage each put a new slant on the task of managing family finances and it is clear from these findings that relationship developments can bring benefits and challenges in equal measure.

“It is encouraging to see that experience helps many families to fine-tune their approach to money matters and take a more harmonious approach. However, like many things in life, relationship circumstances can change, which makes it vital for families to keep track of their finances and ensure any existing commitments are kept up to date.

“Seeking expert financial advice can minimise the chance of surprises further down the line, especially when faced with uncertainty in other aspects of life. Taking steps to protect your income is especially valuable when children are involved and can work wonders to provide long-term security and added peace of mind.”            

Download the Family Finances Report PDF (0.93 MB)

Watch the video

Download the infographic PDF (0.1 MB)

* The Aviva Family Finances report is an in-depth study into the financial needs of the 84% of the UK population who live as part of a modern family. Based on customer profiles and Government data Aviva has recognised the six most common types of modern family as:

–         Living in a committed relationship with no plans to have children
–         Living in a committed relationship with plans to have children
–         Living in a committed relationship with one child
–         Living in a committed relationship with two or more children
–         Divorced/separated/widowed with one or more child
–         Single parent raising one or more child alone


Data was sourced from the Aviva Family Finances Report which used findings from over 20,000 people who are members of one of the six groups of families identified above via Canadean Research. This report is a definitive look at the personal finances of families in the UK. Not only does it look at personal wealth, income sources and expenditure patterns but also tracks how these change across the different types of family unit. Further information can be found in a separate news release.

** Additional data from the Office for National Statistics Marriages in England and Wales series (last updated June 2013) and Number of marriages, marriage rates and period of occurrence series (last updated February 2013).


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

Sarah Poulter : Aviva Press Office : 01904 452828 : 07800 691569 :
Andy Lane / Rachel Morrod / Sinead Meckin : The Wriglesworth Consultancy : 020 7427 1400 :

Notes to editors:

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