Most popular day for marriages but living together is the fastest growing family type

Saturday 18 August has been reported as the most common day in 2018 to tie the knot in the UK. However, since the early 1970s, the number of people actually getting married has steadily decreased, dropping a further 3.4% last year.

There have been many theories about why marriage rates are falling, but regardless the fact remains that fewer people are formalising their relationship.

In 2016 there were 3.3m cohabiting couples or around 6.6million cohabiting adults. This is officially the fastest growing family type, more than doubling from 1.5million couples just 20 years ago and the latest figures released from the Office of National Statistics state that 1 in 8 people over the age of 16 are cohabiting (as at 2017).

This is one of the reasons that Mills & Reeve set up last year, particularly as research proves that many people still think the “common-law marriage” applies to them.

Sue Brookes, a principal associate in the family law team said: “The website was set up to meet a growing demand for information.  Our recent YouGov survey showed that over a third of people still believe they have the same rights as a married couple.  This resource gives people the information they need to protect their family and finances.”

The issue is widespread, with nearly 98% of professionals from family justice group Resolution reported having worked with a cohabiting couple who they were unable to help. A further 90% said the couples are often surprised to find out about their lack of rights. 

Tim Whitney, a senior associate explained: “If an unmarried couple breaks up, they would not necessarily be entitled to share in (what they thought were their) joint assets, such as a house they may have made significant financial contributions to, if they aren’t named as an owner on the deed. This is the same regardless of how long they have been together or whether they have children.”

“Government has the opportunity to update legislation, to bring our laws in line with modern family types. Caroline Lucas raised an early day motion in November, which has already been supported by 23 cross-party MPs.

“In the absence of action from government, these couples need to know that they are not given rights through common law marriage, so they can take appropriate actions to protect themselves. For example signing a cohabitation agreement is an easy and cost effective way to get financial peace of mind without getting married or forming a civil partnership.”

Kris Arpon