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What is Cohabiting – A Full Breakdown

Cohabiting is where unmarried couples, with or without children, live together in a domestic relationship, typically owning a property together.

This involves couples who have made the decision not to get married, who are planning to get married in the future or those who do not have the legal option to marry due to restrictions in their jurisdiction.

In a world where relationships come in various shapes and forms, Cohabiting has emerged as a prevalent lifestyle choice for many individuals.

In this article, the expert Family Law Solicitors at Eric Robinson take a look at why this is now more popular than ever, the benefits, negatives, legal rights and how you can create a Cohabitation Agreement

Trends and Statistics

Unmarried couples living together, whether with or without children, is the fastest growing family type in the UK. 

In 1996, it was reported that there were just 1.5 million cohabiting couples living in England in Wales. Compare that with 2020, where it was reported that number had increased by 137% to 3.5 million. 

The most recent data from the ONS cites that between 2011 and 2021, both opposite and same-sex cohabitation have increased 27.6% and 1.3% respectively. 

This trend is predicted to keep climbing. It is estimated that one in four couples will be cohabiting by the year 2031. 

Benefits of Cohabitation

So, why do couples end up cohabiting? Couples often end up cohabiting together for a number of reasons, some of these include: 

Financial Benefits

Couples may choose to do this together due to the financial benefits it brings, especially due to the current cost of living in the UK. 

By sharing living expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, food and other household essentials, couples can effectively mitigate the financial burdens associated with living alone.

Testing Relationships 

Cohabitation offers couples a great opportunity to assess their compatibility and suitability together before committing to marriage. 

When sharing a space with someone, you are immersed in each other’s lives, providing insights into each other’s habits and personalities. 

This first hand experience together can lead to an overall stronger relationship, as you can gain a better understanding of each other’s communication styles, conflict resolution strategies, and lifestyle preferences. 

Flexibility and Freedom

Cohabitation offers couples greater flexibility and freedom compared to marriage. It allows the individuals to maintain their independence and pursue individual interests while sharing a life with someone. 

As well as this, couples have the flexibility to tailor their relationship dynamics, living arrangements, and future plans according to their preferences and priorities.

Negatives of Cohabitation

Whilst there are benefits to cohabitation, it is important to remember and understand that there are also some negatives.

Lack of Legal Protection

The main disadvantage is that cohabiting couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples, or couples in a civil partnership.

While there is mounting pressure on the UK government to improve the legal protection of cohabiting, as it stands currently, it is vital for cohabiting couples to protect themselves in the event of a separation. 

Without an agreement in place, in the event of a relationship breaking down, there will be uncertainties regarding property ownership, financial support, and child custody arrangements

Creating an Agreement

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding document that outlines the split of jointly owned assets, finances, property and child arrangements should a cohabiting couple decide to separate.

Currently if you do not have an agreement in place, there is not one piece of law that a separating couple can use to resolve property, financial or child disputes. 

What Can Be Included in a Cohabitation Agreement?

There are several different types of assets that can be included within a cohabitation agreement. Common assets that are often included in an agreement include:

  • Ownership of property / deposits / share of the mortgage
  • How household bills will be dealt with
  • Bank accounts and finances
  • Childcare 
  • Pensions
  • Jointly owned assets such as cars, furniture, jewellery etc
  • Payment of any jointly accrued debts
  • Pets

How Eric Robinson Solicitors Can Help

Eric Robinson Solicitors has an expert team of Cohabitation Solicitors that can help couples create and write a concrete cohabitation agreement, that will ensure that your assets are protected in the event of a separation, giving you peace of mind. 

We offer a free initial 30-minute consultation with one of our Family Law Solicitors, so make sure you contact your closest office today, either by phone or simply filling out our contact us form. 

We have solicitors offices in Southampton, Hedge End, Chandlers Ford, Winchester, Lymington and Richmond-Upon-Thames.