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Figures show marriage on the decline as cohabitation increases

The most recent figures release by the office of National Statistics show that 50.6 of the population aged 16 and over in England and Wales were married in 2015 (this is around 23.8 million people.  This is a fall in the 2002 figure of 54.8%.

The figures showed that there was an increase in single people aged 16 and over from 29.6% in 2002 to 34.5% in 2015.  This is believed to reflect the rise in unmarried people in the middle age groups.

However, there has also been a rise in people who cohabiting who have not been married or in a civil partnership.  This figure rose from 6.8% in 2002 to 9.5% in 2015.  The statistics show that cohabitation was most common in younger age groups where it was beginning to be seen as an alternative to marriage.

Resolution's spokesman on cohabitation law, Graeme Fraser, said; “These statistics should be regarded by policymakers as a wake-up call that cohabitation is a trend of modern society that is not going to go away. As family lawyers who see the damage caused by the lack of protection for cohabiting couples when they separate, Resolution calls for the urgent introduction of safety net legislation providing legal protection and fair outcomes at the time of a couple's separation, particularly for children and mothers left vulnerable under the existing law.  In light of the latest ONS data, reform of the law for cohabiting couples should be one of the top priorities for the new Justice Secretary."

There has long been a call for a change to the law to ensure cohabiting couples are protected to.  At the moment, there is no statutory protection for the assets of cohabiting couples when the relationship breaks down and this can often lead to acrimonious splits.  However, it is hoped that the latest statistics will show that there is now a need for the law to be updated to recognise the different forms of relationship in modern society.

Samantha Lee, Managing Director and Head of Family Law at Swain & Co Solicitors says; “We are now seeing the rise of cohabitation as a new family structure, however, this is currently not recognised by the law.  I believe it is important that the law is updated to reflect the spectrum of family structures in modern society and to ensure all types of families are equally protected on breakdown of the relationship.”

If you have any questions about assets on marriage or cohabitation and wish for further advice, call Swain & Co Solicitors today on 02392 492 967.

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