Number of opposite sex cohabiting couples has doubled since 1996

The number of opposite sex cohabiting couple families has increased significantly, according to the latest statistical bulletin on families and households released by the Office for National Statistics on 1 November 2012.

In 1996 there were 1.5 million opposite sex cohabiting families.  That has risen to 2.9 million in 2012.  The number of dependant children living in opposite sex cohabiting couple families doubled from 0.9 million to 1.8 million over the same period.

Emma Alfieri, Legal Executive in Steeles Law's family law team comments: “We have certainly seen a trend in growing numbers of couples who are living together without formalising their relationship and many find themselves surprised by their own situation.  This is because many people do not realise that there is no such thing as "common law marriage" in England and Wales.  As such, there is no protection for a (financially) vulnerable party.  Whilst there have been proposals for a cohabitation law in England, at the moment there is no protection for cohabitants as such.

When there are problems and relationships breakdown, the law is not clear, as it is in respect of divorce and civil partnership dissolution.

Couples can and should consider having a cohabitation agreement drawn up to confirm the parties intentions at the outset.

If you would like further advice in respect of co-habitation, please contact Steeles Law's family law team who can provide you with detailed advice about your rights and how to protect them.

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