The Office of National Statistics has published the latest figures on marriage and cohabitation.
Marriage figures are decreasing – in fact from the stats 23.8 million people were married in England and Wales in 2015. The percentage of the population (those aged 16 and over) that are married has fallen since 2002 from 54.8% to 50.6%. The stats suggest this is due to younger age groups cohabiting as an alternative to marriage.
So what is cohabiting? Well, it is living together as an unmarried couple. The stats show that 28.4 million people lived together as a couple in 2015. This is 60.5% of the population (those aged 16 and over).
Well, what’s the big deal? The law protects married couples (including civil partnerships) when they separate but the same cannot be said of unmarried couples.
If you have assets to protect, then those getting married can enter into Pre-Nuptial Agreements. Did you know that unmarried couples can also enter into Agreements, known as Cohabitation Agreements or Living Together Agreements? I know there are pros and cons to such Agreements, but they are very useful protection measures in the event of a relationship breakdown. You don’t want to be left saying, ‘I wish I had done this’ or ‘I wish I had done that’ if your relationship breaks down.
Married couples who divorce can share each other’s assets, including capital, pensions, income, property and liabilities. Unmarried couples do not get this automatic right, and there can be some very harsh results. You could walk away from a long relationship without a share of the assets or income, as you may have no right to claim a share of them.
There can also be significant legal and financial implications for unmarried couples where one party pre-deceases the other.
With cohabitation on the rise it is important that you know your legal rights and protect yourself in the event of a relationship breakdown.
Anthony Jones is Head of Family and is a Resolution Accredited Specialist in Cohabitation. For more information or a second opinion, please contact him on 0161 641 4555 or email email@example.com