Recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics have shown that the percentage of families comprising cohabiting couples of different sexes (not including same sex couples) has increased dramatically over the last 10 years and now stands at 2.9 million, up from 2.1 million in 2001.
Of these, some 38% have dependant children. The percentage of married couples with children actually reduced during the same period. There are now 1.8 million children of cohabiting couples (not counting lone parents) up from 1.3 million in 2001 – a huge increase.
So what does this mean in practice? If you are unmarried, you need to make sure that you are protected and if you have children, do they have the maximum protection possible?.
If you are unmarried and separate, your finances will not be treated the same as if you were married. You will not, for example, have the right to claim spousal support, to claim against pensions and even against property unless you have made a direct contribution or it is in joint names.
You may not wish to get married, but you should consider having a Cohabitation Contract that is an agreement which will be legally binding and can offer some protection – if properly made.
So far as the children are concerned, if you are not married, you should make sure that both parents are registered on every child’s birth certificate – or sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement. This grants the same rights as if you were married.
For more information please contact a member of our Family team on 01625 442100.