Cohabitation is firmly established as normal behaviour in the UK, a new report has concluded.
The study from the independent Economic and Social Research Council’s Centre for Population Change highlights that cohabitation at some point in people’s lives has become a “normative behaviour” since living together began to rapidly increase in the 1980s and 19990s.
It highlights latest Office for National Statistics figures showing that more than eight out of ten marriages in England and Wales take place where the couple had been living at the same address before the wedding.
The report also says that since the 1980s, increasing numbers of couples are having children while living with a partner, with one in three children currently born to cohabiting parents.
It adds that although there has been a focus on the instability of cohabiting partnership when compared to marriage, previous studies have found that many more cohabiting couples stayed together or married than separated. It cites research on partnerships that began in 2000-2004, which found that around a quarter continued after five years and 40 per cent led to marriage, with only 35 per cent of couples separating.
Whether cohabiting is a short-term or permanent arrangement, couples who live together need to be aware that they have limited legal rights in the event of a relationship breakdown or, if they have not made a will, on the death of one of the partners.
Surjit Verdi, a solicitor in Palmers’ Family Law team, said: “A sensible step for cohabiting couples is to work with a family law solicitor to put in place a cohabitation agreement, establishing in advance agreed arrangements for financial issues, property and the care of any children should the relationship end.
“It is also important to remember that under intestacy laws, cohabiting couples cannot automatically inherit from their partner’s estate if they die without making a will, so making wills is an essential step to make financial provision for each other.
“Even if the laws relating to cohabitation should change in the future, practical steps like these will help to give cohabiting couples peace of mind about where they stand. For more information, please contact us.”