New statistics released by the Office for National Statistics show a dramatic increase in couples choosing to cohabit rather than remarry, raising 10% in the last 10 years, with particular increase showing in the over 40 age group. The figures show that the trend is increasing even for people who have never married, with a 5% rise in their numbers, and a 7% rise in single (never married) people between the ages of 30 to 49, making up 31% of their numbers.
More than half of adults living in households were living as a couple in 2011, either married or cohabiting. It is evidence again that the number of marriages is reducing as people adopt a more relaxed approach by simply living together.
Cohabitation, however, has some pitfalls and it is important to be aware of these. There is no such thing in UK law as ‘common law marriage’, despite the TV’s best efforts to establish this. The reality is that you can live together for many years but have no entitlement to the other party’s assets, income or pension except in very limited circumstances such as where there are children involved or where you can establish and prove a contribution.
One way of helping to avoid these pitfalls and any later dispute is to enter in to a cohabitation contract. If drafted with the benefit of legal advice these can be binding and set out what should happen in the event of a breakdown.
Another thing to do is to make wills and enduring powers of attorneys. Life expectancy is increasing and it is important to ensure that you make the best provision possible.
For more information on family matters and cohabitation, please contact a member of our Family team on 01625 442100.