Cohabiting couples are the fastest-growing family type in the UK, according to newly released figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
The ONS reports that the number of cohabiting couple families continues to grow faster than the number of married couple and lone parent families, with an increase of 25.8 per cent over the decade 2008-2018. It highlights the fact that more and more people are choosing to live together before, or without, getting married.
These changing demographics mean that an increasing number of people may be at financial risk in the instance of a cohabitation relationship break-up or the death of a partner. Currently, there is no such thing as a common law marriage in the UK and cohabiting couples are not afforded the same legal rights and protections as married couples.
The House of Lords is seeking to address this imbalance with the Cohabitation Rights Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament. The Bill proposes to establish a framework of rights for cohabiting couples following the end of the relationship or the death of one of the cohabitants.
The Bill's provisions would only apply to cohabiting couples who had either been living together as a couple for a minimum period of three years or had a dependant child. It is intended to provide the right for either cohabitant, when a relationship breaks down, to apply to a court for a financial settlement order to redress a financial benefit or an economic disadvantage resulting from the period of cohabitation. It is also designed to make provision regarding the property of deceased persons who are survived by a cohabitant.