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Cohabiting couple families are now the fastest growing family type in the UK, therefore it is more important than ever that people are informed about their cohabitation rights.


The Number of Cohabiters Has More Than Doubled in 20 Years 

Figures released at the end of 2016 in the Families and Households statistical bulleting by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that in 1996 there were 1.5 million cohabiting couple families in the UK. Two decades later, in 2016, there were more than 3.3 million. 

Cohabiting couple families account for 17% of all families in the UK - 3.2 million of these couples were opposite sex couples and 87,000 were same sex. 

Pamela Cobb, Population Statistics Division, Office for National Statistics, said: 

“In 2016, married or civil partner couple families remained the most common type of family in the UK although cohabiting couple families were the fastest growing family type over the last 20 years. The growth in cohabiting couple families may be due to couples choosing cohabitation as an alternative or precursor to marriage”. 

This growing number of cohabitating couples has also had a direct impact on divorce rates. As we wrote recently in our post ‘National Divorce Statistics: Divorce Rates Are at Their Lowest in 45 Years!’, people are now getting married later in life (or not at all) meaning the decision is more considered and relationships are less likely to end in divorce. 


Understanding Cohabitation Law

Sadly, a proportion of these relationships will end. So, if you’re one of these, it is important to know your cohabitation rights - just in case. 

At present, there is no distinct law regulating cohabitation rights and shared assets, such as property ownership. Therefore, we would always recommend that a property is registered under both party’s names on purchase and to consider a cohabitation agreement. 

Find out more about cohabitation agreements and your rights in our past post: Cohabiting Couples: What Are My Rights? 

What About Common Law Marriages? 

In 2013, relationships charity One Plus One found that 47% of British people believe in the ‘myth’ of common law marriage – that cohabiting couples have similar rights to married people – however, this simply isn’t the case. 

This is a social term and isn’t used in law, meaning ‘common law marriage’ doesn’t provide any of the rights of spouses or civil partners. 


The Future of Cohabitation 

With ever-increasing popularity, many are calling for distinct cohabitation laws to be put in place which distinctly outline the legal rights of unmarried couples living together. 

Nigel Shepherd of Resolution (formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association (SFLA)), said: 

“These figures are 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 3.3 million 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.”


If you’d like to learn more about cohabitation laws and your rights, our team is just a phone call away. Call 0808 178 2773 to discuss your thoughts and concerns with one of our legal experts today. 

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