The Families and Households Statistics Report 2015 prepared on behalf of the Office for National Statistics has confirmed the most common family type in 2015 was the married or civil partner couple family. This family type, both with and without dependent children, accounted for some 12.5 million ‘families’.
the report further confirms that cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK with 3.2 million cohabiting couple families in 2015. This is a developing trend – cohabiting couples were also the fastest growing family type in 2014.
With this clear change in the approach of society to alternatives to marriage, the law is still trying to catch up. There are rights and benefits available to married couples both during the marriage and post separation that are not available to cohabiting couples.
Under the current law a couple can cohabit for years and have no protection in the event of separation or death of one party. This can often leave one party financially vulnerable and has a significant impact on the children of unmarried parents as well.
These recent statistics demonstrate the need for the law to develop in line with the modern attitude people have towards their domestic arrangements. In response to the clearly unsatisfactory legal position for cohabitees at present, Lord Marks has sponsored the Cohabitation Rights Bill 2015 – 2016.
The Bill aims 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. Its first reading took place on 4 June 2015 and although it has a long way to go before any real changes take place, this highlights the acknowledgement of the need for change.