Cohabitation Benefits Research ‘May Be Smoke And Mirrors’

Expert Calls On Couples To Consider Their Rights

26.09.2011

A family law specialist at Irwin Mitchell has warned couples to consider their rights when cohabiting, after research suggested that living together before marriage can offer some benefits.

According to a new report from the Office for National Statistics, cohabitation could be behind trends which have led to a decline in the number of marriages ending in separation or divorce by the fifth anniversary.

It suggested that eight out of ten couples now live together before choosing to tie the knot, with some experts suggesting that views on cohabitation have changed a lot from the 1950s when it was regarded in a much different manner.

John Nicholson, a Partner and family law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, said the research identifies how relationships have changed over the years, but warned

He explained: “While these figures suggest that cohabitation can offer benefits, it may be fair to say in some respects that there is an element of ‘smoke and mirrors’ in terms of what this research means.

“Divorce rates may be falling due to this rising trend of cohabitation, but that only suggests that many people may be taking more care before taking the plunge and tying the knot. For instance, there may be many people who are living together while unmarried who are facing the issue of relationship breakdown and the difficulties it can bring – this would just go unnoticed in this kind of research.”

John added that the law surrounding the rights of unmarried couples who live together remains unclear, while the government has confirmed it is not planning to look at reforming the area.

“In legal terms, cohabitees still do not have the same rights as married couples and this is unlikely to change in the medium term due to the government’s recent announcement,” he explained.

“However, people who live together before marriage do still have the option of putting ‘living together agreements’ in place to ensure they have an equal footing in terms of financial issues.

“In addition, another development which is likely to attract much interest will be the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the case of Kernott v Jones – a property dispute based on the issue of cohabitation.”