The Office for National Statistics published the results of their survey into trends and living arrangements this month and it included the following results.
- The number of same sex couple families has grown by over 50% since 2015.
- The number living alone has exceeded 8 million mainly down to increases in women aged 45 – 64 years and men aged 65 – 75 years living alone.
- One in four 20-34 year olds are still living with their parents.
- The number of co-habiting couple families has increased by over 25% since 2008 and has now overtaken the number of couples getting married.
What does this tell us?
People are choosing to build their family in a changing manner.
Changes in social views of same sex relationships and changes in the law have increased the number of same sex couple families.
A rise in the number of divorces has probably played a role in the number of people now living alone.
It would seem that whilst married couples are still the most common type of family, couples are often opting to co-habit. Rising house prices are forcing couples to chose between housing their family and getting married. The same could be said for the reason the number of young people still living at home has increased.
46% of people in England and Wales believe in a “common law” marriage. This suggests that they believe that just because you are essentially living as man and wife you assume the rights afforded to married couples.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a common law marriage, meaning that co-habiting couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples.
For example, if a co-habitee were to die without a Will, their partner would not automatically be entitled to their assets. Similarly, a co-habiting Father would not have the same automatic parental responsibility rights as a Father married to their child’s Mother.
What can I do to protect my rights?
Ensure that assets utilised by both of you such as bank accounts, properties and cars are held in joint names. This means that both parties will have an interest in the asset should the relationship break down or one person die.
Consider a co-habitation agreement. This agreement sets out the nature of your financial relationship and establish your rights should that relationship break down.
If you wish to pass assets to your partner on your death, make sure you have a Will in place. Your co-habitation agreement and Will should be regularly reviewed to make sure that they appropriately address your wishes and deal with all of your assets.