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Cohabiting couple families

6th March, 2015

Cohabiting couple families are the fastest growing family type in the UK, but does this make a common law marriage?

The Office of National Statistics has recently published annual statistics on varying family types in the UK. This year’s data found that cohabiting couple families grew by almost 30% over the decade to 2014, making it the fasting growing family type in the UK. Overall, cohabiting couples make up 16% of family types in the UK.

There is a common misconception amongst a large proportion of the UK population that living with a partner can lead to a ‘common law marriage’, presenting the same legal rights as marriage itself.

On the contrary, the financial orders available to married couples simply do not apply to cohabiting couples. Instead, cohabiting couples must rely on complex law that has developed over time, and continues to develop, leaving a greater sense of uncertainty for separating cohabitees.

Whilst no doubt individuals are committed to their partners and intend their cohabitation to be an enduring family relationship, it is important for those intending to cohabit to consider options available to protect their position. We would recommend that parties enter into a Cohabitation Agreement to expressly set out the arrangements which will apply whilst they live together, as well as their respective rights in the unfortunate event of a relationship breakdown.

The significant increase in cohabiting couple families has led to many commentators saying that the archaic legislation needs updating. The Cohabitation Rights Bill has been in parliament for some time now, but with the forthcoming election, we may see further developments.

For further information and advice in relation to options for the cohabiting couples or the consequences of a relationship breakdown, please contact Richard Barge on 01244 405443 or send an email to [email protected]

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