Cohabiting couples on the increase

Cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK, according to the latest stats from the Office for National Statistics, with 3.2million cohabiting couples and families. Of the 18.7million families in the UK, 12.5million were couples married or in a civil partnership, with or without children. (Just to be clear the ONS defines a family as “A married, civil partnered or cohabiting couple with or without children, or a lone parent with at least one child who live at the same address.”)


keysThe ONS have been compiling such data since 1996, so it’s fascinating to see the changes over the last 19 years. For example:

  • Married and civil partner couple families are up 13%, which in turn mirrors the growth of the UK population by about the same %.

The wealth of data also enables the ONS can also spot some interesting trends. During the period 1996-2005, the total number of married families decreased, but increased significantly during the years 2005-2015. Equally, 

  • Cohabiting couples are up 29.7% over the past decade
  • Lone parent families have increased by 12%


Marriage is popular!

As family lawyers, we are very much aware of the increasing complexity of modern families, and were even a little surprised at the resurgence of popularity in marriage. The figure that is more interesting from a legal perspective is that cohabiting families (whether opposite sex or same sex) now make up 17% of all families in the UK. That’s almost 3.2million people who live their lives in a very similar way to a married couple, but who do not share the same legal rights and status as a married couple. 

At this point, you may be thinking, “What about common law marriage, surely that gives them some rights?” You’re not alone; according to the British Social Attitudes Survey 2008, 51% of respondents though common law marriage existed and conferred rights. This is not the case.


The Cohabitation Rights Bill 

There are moves afoot to change that situation. Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames is sponsoring the Cohabitation Rights Bill, which had its first reading in the House of Lords in June 2015. The bill is designed

“To provide certain protections for persons who live together as a couple or have lived together as a couple; and to make provision about the property of deceased persons who are survived by a cohabitant; and for connected purposes.”


It is definitely a move in the right direction. Sadly, as family lawyers, we have seen first hand the effect of cohabiting couples splitting up on their children, finances, work, friends and family. Unlike the divorce of a married couple, which at least has a formal structure, the division of mutual assets and establishing the care for children for a cohabiting couple can be legally challenging.

At Leiper Gupta Family Lawyers, we have extensive experience in helping cohabitees reach a fair and reasonable agreement with their ex-partners. We have a variety of expertise to help make the process less stressful, ranging from mediation to legal measures such as Separation Orders and civil proceedings under the Childrens Act.


Cohabitation Help from LGFL

If your relationship is breaking down and you live with your partner, the best time to seek advice is now. We offer a free 30-minute. no-obligation consultation to talk through your situation and advise on an appropriate course of action. Our discreet family law offices are in the heart of the Hampshire countryside, within easy reach of Reading, Farnborough, Bracknell and Basingstoke.

Equally, if you are planning to move in with a new partner, we can help with the drawing up of a Cohabitation Agreement. This lays out how assets would be dealt with if your partnership does not work out, and makes provision for any children. 

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