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Marriage figures prompt cohabitation agreement warning

Fresh figures giving data on marriages have highlighted the importance of cohabitation agreements, a regional expert has warned.

The statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics, have revealed the number of people cohabiting – rather than living as a married couple – continues to grow. The figures show around one in eight people aged 16 and over in England and Wales in 2017 were cohabiting.

Meanwhile, statistics for the ‘single, never married’ population aged 16 and over also increased by 3.9 million between 2002 and 2017, faster than the rate of married people – which only increased by 1.2 million over the same period.

Helen Lucking, partner in the Family team at regional law firm Napthens, warned the figures show the increasing importance of having a cohabitation agreement in place.

She explained: “It’s a common misconception that people who live together without entering into a marriage or civil partnership have the same legal rights as married couples on separation. However, this just isn’t true, and many consider the law to have failed to keep up with common domestic arrangements.

“These statistics show that, while marriage is the most common status, with 51 per cent of people in a marriage, those choosing to cohabit is fast increasing.

“Cohabitation agreements are an important way for a couple, whether heterosexual or of the same sex, to make preparations to help organise finances during cohabitation as well as after the breakdown of a relationship, if the worst were to happen.

“This is particularly important for relationships where both parties have previously been married and are now are involved in a second serious relationship. At this time in their lives they may well have more assets to their name than earlier and therefore, more to plan for.

“There is no substitute for sound legal advice at the start of a relationship and to help avoid costly litigation at the time of an unfortunate relationship breakdown.”

Family and Divorce - Partner - Helen Lucking