Cohabitation is the quickest growing type of family in the UK

Published: 9th February 2015

Recent figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that cohabitation is the quickest growing type of family in the UK.

The statistics, released on 28th Jan 2015, were part of the ONS Household and Families 2014 bulletin which reports annually on the statistics of families in the UK by type, number of people, number of children and household size as well as the number of people who are currently living alone.

The headline figures in the report show that between 2004 and 2014, cohabitation has grown by 29.% and is the fastest growing family type in the UK. Almost 3.0 million heterosexual couples and 84,000 same-sex couples were cohabiting last year in the UK. Cohabiting couples now make up 16.4% of all families living in the UK.

The number of heterosexual couples cohabiting has increased significantly from 13% to 16% since 2004, yet cohabiting same-sex couples only experienced an increase of 0.1% from 0.4% to 0.5% over the same 10 year period.

The Household and Families 2014 bulletin includes statistics from 1996 to 2014, with the 2014 figures being published for the first time.

The bulletin also includes a note about same-sex marriages, as The Marriages (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 made provisions for the marriage of same sex couples in England and Wales from 29th March 2014 onwards and as such, the data doesn't include statistics for same-sex married couples. However, it has been revealed that these figures will be included for the first time in next years' release.

Other key findings in the report include, the most common type of family in the UK are heterosexual married couples, which account for 12.5 million families out of a total of 18.6 million in the UK. There are 2.0 million lone parents with dependent children in the UK, with 91% of them being women. Out of 26.7 million households, 28% of them contain only one person and households containing two or more families was the fastest growing household type in the UK, increasing by 56% over the past 10 years.

The report focuses on the significant rise of cohabitation in the UK, but it also highlights a problem with this large demographic. In 2008, the British Social Attitudes Survey revealed that 51% of people taking the survey thought that common law marriage existed in UK law and that cohabiting couples were protected by this 'law', giving them similar legal rights to those of married couples. This is simply not the case and many are still confused over the 'common law marriage' myth today, which means that over 3.0 million cohabiting couples are at risk, should their relationships breakdown.

In December we reported in a previous blog the Cohabitation Rights Bill was starting to gather pace in the House of Lords as it is currently passing through parliament. The bill was introduced by Lord Marks and commissioned in October 2013, with the aim of protecting cohabiting couples by giving them similar legal rights to married couples.

It is recommended that cohabiting couples seek legal advice from professionals on a wide range of matters including the joint purchase of property, assets, finances, the starting of a family and separation. K J Smith Solicitors offer services for cohabiting couples including dealing with cohabitation disputes and cohabitation agreements to help unmarried couples living together to protect their future, should the worst happen.

For more information or to arrange your free 45 min consultation with one of our team, please contact us today on 01491 630000 (Henley-on-Thames), 020 7070 0330 (Central London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 01256 584000 (Basingstoke).

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