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7 July 2014

Cohabitation figures show need for law reform

The Office for National Statistics has analysed the 2001 and 2011 Census data, finding that the proportion of households in the UK which comprise cohabiting couples rose from 14% to 17%.  Of these, 38% of the cohabitating couples had a dependant child. The number of households with married couples fell from 70% to 65%.

Emma Alfieri, from Steeles Law’s family team, commented: “This data shows that the trend of people choosing to live together without marrying, or entering into a civil partnership, is on the increase.

Many people do not realise that there is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’, which means that the legal rights cohabiting couples have are different to couples that are married.  Essentially, there is no protection for a financially vulnerable party, as when there are problems, and relationships break down, the law is not clear.

Unfortunately the law of this area is now old fashioned and out of date and the Government has no plans for reform during the current parliamentary term.

Therefore when couples purchase property in joint names, thought should be given as to how they will own the property.  If, for example, one party contributes more to the purchase price than the other party, this can and should be recorded.

It is always recommended that couples protect themselves and their assets and have a cohabitation agreement drawn up to confirm the parties’ intentions at the outset, which serves to limit the future risks.”

If you would like further advice in respect of cohabitation, or would like a cohabitation agreement, then please contact us.

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