Figures released today (4 November 2016) show that the cohabiting couple family continues to be the fastest growing family type in the UK in 2016.
The latest statistical bulletin, Households and Families, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows that cohabiting couple families in the UK have doubled from 1.5 million families in 1996 to 3.3 million families in 2016.
There were 3.2 million opposite sex cohabiting couple families and 87,000 same sex cohabiting couple families in the UK in 2016. Together, cohabiting couple families account for 17% of all families in the UK.
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 3.3million 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.'
Last year Resolution released its Manifesto for Family Law calling for the introduction of some rights for cohabiting couples when they separate. Research in 2013 from relationships charity One Plus One shows that almost half (47%) of the British public believe in the myth of 'common law marriage', the notion that cohabiting couples have similar legal rights to married people.
Family lawyer Graeme Fraser, Resolution’s spokesman on cohabitation law, said:
'Under current cohabitation law it’s possible to live with someone for decades and even to have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner when the relationship breaks down. This can have a huge impact on women and children, particularly in cases where a mother has given up or reduced her work to raise a family.'
The statistical bulletin is available to download here.
See also 'Cohabitation: The Long slow road to reform by Judith Bray due to be published in December Family Law.