Cohabiting couple families are the fastest growing family type over last 20 years

Figures published by the Office of National Statistics reveal that there are now 3.3 million cohabiting couple families in the UK, with the number more than doubling over the last twenty years. Cohabiting couple families were the fastest growing family type during that period. In light of these new figures, many organisations have reignited the call for the government to look at and update the laws dealing with cohabiting couples when they separate.

The laws are completely different to the ones used when a couple divorce and many cohabiting couples still operate their financial arrangements under the mistaken belief that they have a “common law marriage”. There is no such thing! When a cohabiting couple separate they must rely on complex property law to determine how jointly owned assets should be divided, with the parties having no entitlement to the other’s savings, pension or income.

Resolution, the largest organisation representing many family solicitors, barristers and other professions working in family breakdown, have called on the government to do more, saying that the law needs to catch up with modern British society. Nigel Shepherd, Resolution Chair, said:
“These ONS figures are further proof that more and more couples are choosing to live together and bring up their children without marrying. Sadly, some of those relationships will come to an end at some point. This is a feature of our modern society that is here to stay and unfortunately current cohabitation law is failing to provide them with the rights some of them mistakenly think they have. Rather than ignoring these 3.3 million families, our lawmakers must respond and introduce safety net legislation that will provide legal protection and fair outcomes at the time of a couple’s separation.”

For anyone who is separating from an unmarried partner, it is important that legal advice is sought from the outset so each party knows where they stand and what they are potentially entitled to from the relationship. At Barker Gotelee our experienced family solicitors can offer a free consultation in certain circumstances. Appointments can be arranged through the family team’s assistant Victoria Brosnan by calling 01473 611 211.

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Ipswich Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email