The National Office for Statistics has published a report revealing that there is a year-on-year rise in couples cohabiting and a fall in the percentage of married couples.
Comparing the 2001 and 2011 Census data shows that the number of cohabiting couples has risen from 14% to 17% of households in England and Wales. The number of households in England and Wales with married couples fell from 70% to 65%.
Other findings of note from the report, 2011 Census Analysis: How do Living Arrangements, Family Type and FamilySize Vary in England and Wales?,include that lone parents account for 18% of all families in England and Wales households. 11% of couple families with dependent children are step families.
The report highlights the way families are changing in the UK. More and more couples are choosing to live together without marrying and lone parenting is becoming more common.
The laws regarding cohabitation, however, have not changed. Couples who choose to cohabit rather than marry have no legal rights or protection if they split. There is no common law wife or husband in this country and the only way to protect personal assets and finances in the event of a relationship breakdown is to enter into a cohabitation agreement or property ownership document.
A Cohabition Rights Bill was read last year for the first time and again this year, however it is not yet scheduled for further readings, demonstrating that it could be a long time before cohabiting couples have any laws and regulations to fall back on when dividing property at the end of a relationship.