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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.