Office for National Statistics Report Shows a Rise in the Number of Cohabiting Couple Families

Published: 15th November 2017

A report has recently been released by the Office for National Statistics highlighting patterns and trends in living arrangements. In the report, it is stated that cohabiting couple families are now the second largest family type in the UK, as well as the fastest growing. This has, of course, highlighted the need for more awareness of how little legal protection cohabiting couples in England and Wales currently have, particularly as married couples currently have far greater legal rights when compared to cohabiting couples.

Cohabiting Couples on the Rise

The recently released report has identified that cohabiting couple families have now become the second largest family type in the UK, with approximately 3.3 million families in total, which represents an increase of more than 50% since 1996 when there were approximately 1.5 million cohabiting families in total. This is widely thought to be because many people now live together before they marry, or simply that couples are opting to live together without marrying.

This does bring problems, however, especially because most people believe that by living together they are seen as their partner’s common law husband or wife. With this comes the common misunderstanding that, should their relationship come to an end, they would be entitled to make certain claims for finances. This is not the case and only cements the fact that there should be more awareness regarding this family type, particularly relating to the misconception that common law marriage is a part of English law.

Cohabiting couples in England and Wales do not have the same level of rights legally as married couples do, and there is a significant lack of knowledge around this issue. Although a parent that did not marry their children’s father may be able to make claims financially for their children, they aren’t protected legally in the same way that a married couple may be, and so this can sometimes cause difficulties for the partner with less finances. Scotland has a very different standpoint on this topic, providing cohabiting couples with legal rights following the breakdown of their relationship, and many industry experts are calling for England and Wales to follow Scotland’s lead. With more and more cohabiting couple families forming year on year, experts suggest that the law should represent this and offer more legal protection to the couples following separation.

Key Points from the ONS Report

  • There was an average household size of 2.4 in 2017, based on 27.2 million households in the UK.
  • The total number of families increased by 15% from 1996 to 2017, from 16.6 million to 19 million.
  • Married or civil partner couple families are still the most common family type, accounting for a total of 12.9 million families in 2017.
  • Approximately 32% of males between 20 and 34 years of age lived with their parents during 2017, compared to 20% of females within the same age bracket.
  • A total of 3.9 million people aged between 16 and 64, and a total of 3.8 million people aged over 65, lived alone during 2017.

If you are unmarried and living with your partner and you are concerned about your legal position and 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 arrange a free 45-minute consultation, 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), 01494 629000 (Beaconsfield) or 01235 375500 (Abingdon).

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