Cohabitation remains the UK’s fastest growing family type

Published: 14th November 2016

Cohabiting couples continue to be the UK’s fastest growing family type of 2016, after new figures were released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on the 4th November 2016.

The latest statistical bulletin, entitled 'Households and Families', revealed that cohabiting couple families contribute to 17% of all families within the UK. The figures for cohabiting couple families have more than doubled – from 1.5 million to almost 3.3 million since 1996, with 3.2 million opposite sex and 87,000 same-sex cohabitations as of November 2016.

The Resolution Chair, Nigel Shepherd, called the ONS figures ‘further proof that more and more couples are choosing to live together and bring up their children without marrying. Sadly, some of those relationships will come to an end at some point. This is a feature of our modern society that is here to stay and unfortunately current cohabitation law is failing to provide them with the rights some of them mistakenly think they have. Rather than ignoring these 3.3million families, our lawmakers must respond and introduce safety net legislation that will provide legal protection and fair outcomes at the time of a couple's separation.’

In 2015, Resolution called for specific rights to be introduced for cohabiting couples to protect them in the event of separation and their recommendations were included as part of their Manifesto for Family Law. After research was conducted in 2013 by a relationship charity called One Plus One, it was concluded that, despite the growing number of cohabiting couple families, 47% of people living in Britain believe that the notion of Common Law Marriage – which would give cohabiting couples similar legal rights to that of married couples – should be in place.

Resolution’s spokesman on cohabitation law, Graeme Fraser, said, ‘[u]nder current cohabitation law it’s possible to live with someone for decades and even to have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner when the relationship breaks down. This can have a huge impact on women and children, particularly in cases where a mother has given up or reduced her work to raise a family.'

Cohabitation is increasingly becoming a typical way of life for more and more people. However, as some of these relationships come to an end, there can be lengthy disputes over any property and assets that they have, leading to many unfair outcomes.

When cohabiting couples separate, there are instances where one partner leaves the other and takes no responsibility, leaving everything behind and letting the other partner and any children look after themselves. Until a law reform on cohabitation occurs in the UK, the only protection cohabiting couples have is in the form of entering into a cohabitation agreement with your partner or by creating a declaration of your trust where property is involved.

It is clear from the results of the latest statistical bulletin that the law needs to move on with the times to protect cohabiting couples and enable any vulnerable partners or children to have the security that they so desperately need after separation.

If you are currently unmarried and living with your partner and you are concerned about your legal rights then K J Smith Solicitors can help. Our team are experienced in drawing up cohabitation agreements which are designed to help protect you and your family, should the worst happen.

For more information or to discuss your circumstances with a member of our team, please contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames),020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading),01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) 01483 370100 (Guildford) or 01494 629000 (Beaconsfield).

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