Lawyers Say Cohabitation Figures Show Need For Law Reform

Official Statistics Show Rise In Couples Living Together Outside Marriage


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Specialist family lawyers say the latest statistics which show a significant rise in cohabitation over the past decade highlight the need for reforms to the way the law deals with couples living together outside marriage.

The Office National Statistics has analysed the 2001 and 2011 Census data finding an increase in cohabitating couples from 14% to 17% of households in the UK. In comparison the number of households with married couples fell from 70% to 65%.

It is understood that there are around 6m people cohabiting in the UK at present and law firm Irwin Mitchell believes current family laws must be updated to keep pace with modern society and deal with the issues facing cohabiting couples.

Alison Hawes, an expert family and divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, which has offices across the country, said:

Expert Opinion
All the statistics on how people are living their lives show that the world has changed remarkably over the past couple of decades.

“It is unsurprising to see yet another study highlight that the number of people choosing to live together without marrying is on the increase in the UK. Such trends simply demonstrate how times have changed and in the 21st century many people do not feel the need to enter into either a civil partnership or marriage.

"However, the issue is that legislation in this area has not moved with the times and this means couples who live together have very few rights in law in the event of relationship breakdown. There is no such thing as a common law wife or husband – that is a myth. The only way for couples to protect themselves and their assets in the event of a split is to prepare a cohabitation agreement or property ownership document with advice from legal specialists from the outset.

it is very similar to a pre-nuptial agreement, and enables both parties to ensure they state clearly how their assets should be divided in the event that their relationship does sadly come to an end."
Alison Hawes, Partner

The first reading of a proposed Cohabitation Rights Bill took place in October last year then again in June this year to signal the start of the Bill's journey through the House of Lords, however a second reading to debate all aspects of the Bill is yet to be scheduled.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Divorce and Family Law.