Concern families could be left unprotected as cohabiting couples continue to rise

According to official figures by the ONS, the number of Brits cohabiting has increased 25.8 per cent in the last decade; the fastest growing family type across the UK.

Of the 19.1 million families in 2018, married and civil partner couple families represented two-thirds (67.1 per cent) of all family types; a drop from 69.1 per cent recorded a decade ago.

3.4 million (or 17.9 per cent) of all families were reported as cohabiting last year; a significant rise from the 2.7 million cohabiting couple families (or 15 per cent) in 2008. This was closely followed by 2.9 million lone-parent families (15 per cent of all UK families).

Sophie Sanders, spokeswoman for the ONS, explained:

“While married couple families remain the most common, cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type as people increasingly choose to live together before, or without, getting married.”

Same-sex couple families more than doubled since 2008

Following the introduction of same-sex marriages in March 2014, there has also been a rapid growth in same-sex marriage couple families. The number of same-sex couple families has increased substantially in recent years, with an increase of 53.2 per cent (from 152,000 to 232,000) in ten years. The most common same-sex couple family are also cohabiting, however, the proportion of these family types have declined from 59.6 per cent in 2008 to 50.4 per cent in 2018.

1.5 million cohabiting couples without a will in the UK

Despite many cohabiting couples believing they can divide assets in the same manner as those who are married or in a civil partnership, ‘common law marriage’ is a myth. With an increasing number of cohabiting families forming across Britain, Helen Morrissey, Corporate PR specialist at Royal London, raised concerns that many families could be left financially insecure should their relationship end:

“The number of people choosing to cohabit is outstripping that of those choosing to marry. What many of these couples don’t know is that while they will live together and often raise families together like their married counterparts, they don’t have the same rights.”

Recent statistics from Royal London revealed that 5.4 million UK adults did not have a will in 2018 (accounting for 54 per cent of the population). This means that around 1.5 million cohabiting couples were left unprotected, with no legal right or entitlement to their partner’s estate, if one of them passed away last year.

Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, the surviving person can make a claim for reasonable financial provision from the estate. It should be noted there is only six months from the date that the grant of administration is issued to bring a claim against the estate.

Professional Legal Advice on Cohabitation Agreements in Portsmouth & Salisbury

Currently, the Cohabitation Rights Bill – which would provide certain protections to cohabiting couples – is in the early stages of passing through Parliament. However, while cohabiting couples are still not granted with automatic legal rights, couples can minimise financial risk by either creating a will or cohabitation agreement. Our solicitors at Child Law Partnership can assist with creating a legally binding cohabitation agreement – similar to a pre-nuptial agreement for those who are not married – to deal with potential issues that can arise from separating, such as property and assets.

Contact our Cohabitation & Family Lawyers

If you are in a cohabiting couple, is imperative that you know your rights should the relationship breakdown. At Child Law Partnership, our family lawyers are experts who can provide you with highly qualified legal advice to ensure you are protected no matter what happens in the future. Contact our dedicated team today by completing the online enquiry form.

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Widowed Parents’ Allowance declared incompatible with ECHR

The UK Supreme Court has announced that it considers the Widowed Parents’ Allowance to be incompatible with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), on the basis that it requires claimants to have been married to their spouse and offers no protection to unmarried couples.

This has come to light after an unmarried mother from Northern Ireland – Siobhan McLaughlin – was refused bereavement payments following the death of her partner who she had four children with. Ms McLaughlin has now won a ruling from the Supreme Court that such legislation breaches human rights law.

Article 14 of the Convention offers protection from discrimination on the basis of a number of factors – including sex, race, birth or “other status”, which could be interpreted to mean marital status. Since Article 8 of the Convention also grants the right to a private and family life with which public authorities should not interfere, it stands to reason that those who choose not to marry should not be discriminated against for that private choice. However, the legislation surrounding Widowed Parents’ Allowance – which grants bereaved parents a maximum weekly sum of £117.10, depending on their spouse’s National Insurance contributions – states that one must have been married to, or in a formal civil partnership with, the deceased at the time of their death in order to claim the benefit. This has been found to discriminate against unmarried people and has resulted in their families missing out on vital financial support during an extremely difficult time in their lives.

As the number of marriages across the UK falls, and more couples choose to cohabit, the government now faces the prospect of changing the Widowed Parents’ Allowance to grant protection to unmarried people and their children.

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For first-class legal advice on these issues and other areas of family law, do not delay and speak with one of our specialist family law solicitors today.

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Common-Law Marriage “Myth” Puts Co-habiting Couples at Risk

Cohabitation is the fastest growing family type in the UK, with the number of unmarried couples living together more doubling from 1.5m in 1996 to 3.3m in 2017.

However, family justice organisation Resolution has warned that many of these couples could be at financial risk because of a lack of understanding of the legal system, and has called for a change in the law.

A recent poll conducted by ComRes found that:

  • Two-thirds of people in cohabiting relationships are unaware that there is no such as thing as ‘common-law marriage’;
  • Four in five cohabitants agree that the legal rights of cohabiting couples who separate are unclear;
  • Seventy-nine per cent of the public agree that there is a need for greater legal protection for unmarried couples upon separation;
  • Eighty-four per cent of the public agree that the Government should take steps to ensure unmarried cohabiting couples are aware that they don’t have the same legal protection as married couples.

“Today’s poll shows that many still believe in the myth that they will get financial rights through ‘common-law marriage’” commented Resolution chair Nigel Shepherd. “This means millions of cohabiting couples are unaware that they don’t have automatic claims, for example on the property they live in, if they split up. This makes it less likely they’ll take steps to protect themselves.”

“In many cases, this lack of protection affects women more than men, as they are still more likely to have taken time off work to raise children,” he said.

“Society has changed – it’s time for our laws to catch up,” he added.

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For expert legal advice on marriage, cohabitation and separation then contact our specialist family lawyers today.

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