Table for One
According to latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics, over a third of people (33.9%) in England and Wales are not only single, but have also never been married. That is the highest ever recorded and represents an increase of 10 per cent since 2004.
However, marriage is not dead. The statistics show that 80 per cent of couples do marry, leading to there being more married couples in 2014 (23.8 million people) than there were in 2002.
Given that we are repeatedly told how the population as a whole is ageing, it perhaps follows that there are 1.8 million more married couples over the age of 60. It also follows that there are 800,000 less thirty-somethings who are married.
The thirty-somethings are taking to cohabitation. It is most prevalent among those between the ages of 30 and 34. One in eight adults are living together as an unmarried couple.
The number of people who are married has fallen 5 per cent in a decade, but it still accounts for more than half of people (51.2 per cent). Also, the number of people entering into civil partnerships (0.2 per cent) has fallen year on year but of course same-sex marriage may account for the reduction as couples can now marry rather than become civil partners.
This is a man’s world
The statistics show that it is men who are more likely to have never married, and who live alone. A total of 28 per cent of men compared to 22 per cent of women fall into this category.
These are on the rise again. Including civil partnership dissolutions, the divorce rate has risen to 8.2 per cent. However that remains just below the 2011 peak of 8.3 per cent. Of those getting divorced, it is the so called ‘silver splitters’ who are fuelling the numbers with the long term increase driven by those over 45 years of age. A greater number of people aged 50 to 64 are divorcing compared to those of a younger age.
“As the law stands, unmarried couples only have a limited capacity to make claims against each other. The myth of common law marriage still exists, but it is precisely that, a fairytale.
It is not just claims if you separate that are almost non existent. If you are not married to your partner you do not have an automatic right to inherit their estate. On separation there is no maintenance for the unmarried party. Property claims are very limited too. If the property is not held jointly, only by using antiquated trust laws can a party hope to have any sort of claim and even then it is far from clear cut.
As an unmarried partner you neither have nor gain any rights purely by virtue of living with your loved one.”
But there are ways to improve the situation, however as James says it requires some creative thinking and a grown up conversation by the couple:
“One possible solution is to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement. Couples who are planning to or are moving in together can insure themselves against the unhappy possibility of the relationship coming to an end.
People buy car insurance without expecting to crash, why not relationship insurance? I strongly believe that couples should be prepared for moving in together in the same way that drivers are prepared for their car being stolen or being in an accident.”
Don’t leave it to chance
What is very apparent for all cohabiting couples or those about to move in together, is that they need to protect themselves. They should take legal advice not just when the relationship breaks down, but take protective measures when they get together, especially if they are buying a house together. Paradigm Family Law have the expertise and experience to help draw up the necessary agreements and provide couples with the protection they need in the absence of the laws of the land catching up with modern life in this country.
If you would like advice on this or any aspect of family law, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Paradigm Family Law on 0845 6020422 or email us at [email protected]. Ask about our fixed fees and free initial consultation.