According to this recently published report by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Marriage and civil partnership status in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk) the number of people who have never been married or in a civil partnership has continued to rise.
Data collected from the 2021 census, shows that in England and Wales, nearly 4 in 10 adults have never married or formed a civil partnership, up from 3 in 10 in 2001. This has been a steady increase over the past few decades.
This means that currently, more than 18 million adults have never been married or a civil partner, potentially living in an unmarried relationship instead.
What is essential for any unmarried person to know, is that there is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’.
Generally, it does not matter for how long you live with someone else, because you do not automatically acquire legal rights after any particular amount of time (except if your partner dies after you have lived together for at least 2 years as if you were ‘a married couple or civil partners’). Therefore, to be certain of what will happen ‘just in case’ of death or the breakdown of the relationship, the best thing to do is enter into a legally binding cohabitation agreement. You can then be sure of having at least some of the legal safeguards as if you were married.
There has long been talk by lawyers about updating the law to better safeguard unmarried couples, including a Law Commission report in 2007 Cohabitation – Law Commission but the Government decided not to change the law. Therefore, as society changes, unmarried adults need to take action themselves rather than wait for the law to be changed for them.
For further legal advice, you can consult one of our family law solicitors who specializes in cohabitation agreements and other legal issues related to unmarried relationships.
Seeking legal advice early on can help avoid potential disputes and ensure that both parties are fully informed of their legal rights and obligations.
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