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Cohabitation trend prompts reduced divorce rates

An expert in family law is welcoming figures which show divorce rates are continuing to decline, as the number of cohabiting couples rises.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 114,720 divorces in England and Wales in 2013, the latest data available, a decrease of 2.9 per cent since 2012.

Figures also show cohabiting couples account for more than 16 per cent of all families in the UK, making it the fastest growing family type.

Helen Lucking, partner in the Family team at Napthens solicitors, says the figures are positive news, but also highlight the importance of the steps cohabiting couples need to take to protect themselves in the event of a break-up.

Helen said: “A reduction in the number of divorces is welcome news, and there are several reasons why cohabitation could be having this impact on rates. Couples may be living together for a longer period of time before entering into marriage, thus getting to know each other better and reducing the likelihood of disputes.

“On the other hand, couples may choose not to marry at all, perhaps they’re already divorcees and have been discouraged due to a negative experience.

“The important thing to remember is that unmarried couples don’t have the same rights as married couples, which is why it’s essential to draw up a cohabitation agreement early on.

“This is a document which can outline individual contributions, entitlements and responsibilities towards joint possessions such as a car or a house, as well as safeguarding significant assets in the case of a break-up.

“Should a relationship come to an end, a cohabitation agreement can help make things much easier for both parties, reducing the need for legal and court action.”