The number of cohabiting couples in the UK has risen by 22 per cent in the last ten years, according to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
In 2010 the ONS predicted that the number of cohabiting couples would not reach 3.3 million until 2033. However, the new figures show there are already three million cohabiting couples in the UK.
From a family lawyer’s perspective it is certainly true that we are seeing more couples seeking some sort of financial redress after a period of cohabitation. They are frequently disappointed when told that contrary to their belief, there is no such thing as “common law marriage” in UK law.
Some 38% of married couples have dependent children, and 39% of cohabiting different-sex couples have dependent children. Is it right then that the financial outcome for a woman who is divorcing the father of her children will in most cases be very different to the financial outcome for a woman who has cohabited?
The report from the ONS notes: “Although married couples are more likely to have children than cohabiting couples, they tend to be older on average than their cohabiting counterparts so children may be older and have left home…. Cohabiting couples are more likely to be in the right age groups for childbearing…These two competing factors of age and likelihood of childbearing mean that a very similar percentage of married couples and opposite-sex cohabiting couples have dependent children.”
There are now two million lone parents in the UK, up from 1.6 million, the survey suggests.
Some 29% of households are made up of only one person, while almost 20% are families of four or more people.