Cohabitation – the fastest growing family type in the UK

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Mei-Ling McNabPartner & Head of Family

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Cohabitation – the fastest growing family type in the UK

In 2016 there were 3.3m cohabiting couples or around 6.6million cohabiting adults. This is officially the fastest growing family type, more than doubling the 1.5million cohabiting couples just 20 years ago. Despite this, a 2017 ComRes survey showed that only one couple in three knew that there was no such thing as common law marriage.

Currently, couples who choose to live together rather than marry have little legal protection if they separate. Many believe as common law partners they have the same rights as married couples. Unfortunately this is a legal myth and people often find themselves in difficulties when they separate. One solution is for cohabitating couples to put in place a cohabitation agreement, drawn up by solicitors, which clarifies how family affairs including financial provisions for any children and the home should be regulated both now and in the future.

With house prices ever rising, an increasing number of parents are assisting their children financially to enable them to take the first step on the housing ladder by providing the deposit, or sometimes by providing an even a greater contribution towards the purchase price. Such financial assistance is often conditional on it being ring-fenced should the adult child in question decide to cohabit or marry. The parent and the child will wish to protect those funds should that relationship ever flounder. This is where a specialist family lawyer can assist in providing clear advice as to how those monies can be best protected.

Increasingly parents encourage their children to consider entering in to a pre-nuptial agreement or to enter into a cohabitation agreement if marriage is yet not on the cards. An alternative to consider is whether a charge or declaration of trust is appropriate at the very outset which can be registered against the title to the property.

The Family Law team at Brachers can provide specialist legal advice on ways in which to protect your position in the event of a relationship breakdown, including your rights concerning any children and property.