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Co-habiting Couples Double Since 1996

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The number of couples who live with their partner but are unmarried has doubled since 1996 according to the latest statistics from the ONS Labour Force Survey. The total increase in co-habiting couple families includes both opposite sex couples and same sex couples who are not in a marriage or a civil partnership. That means the co-habiting couple is the fastest growing family type in the UK.

During the same period the number of married couple families has fallen. The legal implications are important for couples that see co-habitation as an alternative to marriage.

The Main Statistics
Here are the most significant stand out figures:

· Since 1996 the total number of married couple families has fallen by 456,000 from 12.641 million to 12.185 million
· The number of civil partner couples is now 66,000
· Since 1996 the number of opposite sex co-habiting couple families has risen by 1.434 million from 1.495m to 2.893 million
· Since 1996 the number of same sex co-habiting couple families has risen from 16,000 to 69,000
· Since 1996 the number of lone parent families has risen by 530,000 from 2.445 million to 2.975 million
· There are now 18.188 million families in the UK

Significant Trends
The fall in the number of married couple families by 456,000 between 1996 and 2012, to 12.2
million in 2012 is statistically significant. According to the ONS, the trend is consistent with both the decrease in the number of marriages since the early 1970s and the statistically significant increase in opposite sex cohabiting couple families between 1996 and 2012, from 1.434 million to 1.495 million.

The civil partnered couple has been gradually increased since the introduction of civil partnerships in the UK in December 2005.

Of the lone parent families, nearly 2 million had dependent children living in the household compared to 1.6 million in 1996 and women accounted for 91% of the lone parent families. Married couples with dependent children are more likely to have more children than other family types.

In the event of a relationship break down, women are far more likely to continue with the main caring responsibilities for children.

The number of children likely to be found in the different family types is highest where there is a married couple. It is understood that this reflects increased stability in that type of relationship.

Although there is no such thing as common law marriage in UK law, 58 per cent of respondents to the British Social Attitudes Survey in 2006 incorrectly believed that unmarried couples who live together for some time probably or definitely had a 'common law marriage' which gives them the same legal rights as married couples.

If you would like to know more about the legal differences between married families and cohabiting couples please contact the Family law Department by telephone on 0207 611 4848.