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Is Cohabitation Becoming More Popular Than Marriage?

on Wednesday, 28 August 2019.

The Office for National Statistics published the results of their survey into trends in living arrangements this month and it included some interesting results...

  • The number of same-sex couple families has grown by over 50% since 2015

  • The number of people living alone has exceeded 8 million, mainly down to increases in women aged 45 to 64 years and men aged 65 to 75 years living alone

  • One in four (3.4 million) 20 to 34 year olds are living with parents

  • The number of cohabiting couple families has increased by over 25% since 2008, and overtaken the number of couples getting married

So What Does This Tell Us?

Well, this certainly demonstrates that the way people are choosing to build their family is changing. It is good to see diversity and that people are being able to live how they feel appropriate without the pressure to follow traditional ideology.

It is pleasing to see that the number of same-sex couple families has grown. With changes in societal views on same sex relationships and changes in the law, we hope to see an ongoing positive impact going forward.

What is interesting, is the number of people that are living alone, especially within age brackets where we would traditionally have expected people to be married and living with their spouses. Perhaps the rise in the number of divorces has a role to play in these statistics?

It would seem that whilst married couples are the most common type of family, couples are often opting to cohabit. Perhaps the rising house prices is forcing couples to choose between housing their family and getting married. The same could be said for the number of young people still living at home. Unfortunately, the disparity between wages and the cost of living means people are having to adapt and prioritise.

Busting the Common Law Marriage Myth

You may or may not be surprised to read that 46% of people in England and Wales believe in a 'common law marriage'. This suggests that they believe that just because you are essentially living 'as man and wife' you assume the rights afforded to married couples.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a 'common law marriage', meaning that cohabiting couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples.

For example, if a cohabitee was to die without a will, their partner would not automatically be entitled to their assets (unless they were jointly owned). Similarly, a cohabiting father would not have the same automatic parental responsibility rights as a father married to their child's mother.

What Can I Do to Protect My Rights?

  • Ensure that assets utilised by both of you, such as bank accounts, properties and cars, are held in joint names. This means that both parties will have an interest in the asset should the relationship break down or one person die.

  • Enter into Cohabitation Agreement. This agreement sets out the nature of your financial relationship and establishes your rights should that relationship break down.

  • If you wish to pass assets to your partner on your death, make sure that you a Will in place. Your Cohabitation Agreement and Will should be regularly reviewed to ensure that they appropriately address your wishes and deal with all of your assets.

Samantha Hickman is a Partner in our Family Law team. To discuss your cohabitation arrangements, please call 0117 314 5435 or complete the form below.

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