Recent figures released from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that the number of cohabiting couples in the UK has increased by 22% since 2003. This accounts for 3 million families in the UK.

In 2010 the Office of National Statistics predicted that the number of cohabiting couples would increase to 3.3 million by 2033. It is interesting that this figure has all but been reached, some 20 years prior to its projection.

Statistics of other types of families were also detailed in the study. Making up 7.7 million households; married couples and civil partners without dependant children were reportedly the most common family type. This reflects an increase of 3% since 2003. It has been speculated that this may be more a reflection of a decrease in the number of non-family households as more young people opt to live with their parents for longer.

Married couples and civil partners with dependant children have decreased by almost 2% since 2003; this was the only family type to show a decline.

The total number of families increased by 6%.

It is made clear by the significant increase in cohabiting couples that more and more couples are choosing to live together without the formal commitment of a marriage or civil partnership. From a legal standpoint, marriage and civil-partnerships provide legal and financial protection to either party should the relationship breakdown or if one of the parties dies. Cohabiting couples who are not married/in a civil partnership can be left at risk, if one party were to pass away, the other would be left without automatic inheritance under the rules of intestacy. In addition, if that relationship ends, then there may not be agreement on division of assets.

The law surrounding cohabitation has been in focus recently, and there have been calls for the law to change to better reflect relationships in today’s society. However the law remains, for the time being, rather complex and unsatisfactory and in order for cohabiting couples to secure the future for their partner, supplementary legal documentation, such as a cohabitation agreement, and certainly an up to date will, are needed.

For more information about the legal rights of cohabiting couples, do not hesitate to get in contact with us. Our team of family law solicitors can provide the help and advice you need.

By Nicola Rushton,
Family Lawyer in Burnley