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Ever Evolving Family Law: Changing Trends in Living Arrangements

Monday, 2 June 2014

It is the nature of the law that it is constantly evolving to changes in the way society operates. This is most obvious perhaps in fields such as business and technology but it applies just as much to family law.

The evolution of family law has been particularly pronounced in recent decades as social changes have accelerated. By understanding the trends that have taken place and focusing on those that continue to do so, it enables us to be better prepared for the future.

Although there is no way of future proofing your family or living arrangements entirely, there are steps that can be taken to limit the fallout if circumstances change later on. The increasing popularity of nuptial agreements and their growing recognition in the courts is just one example.

Recently released ONS analysis of data in this field gives us some clues as to the groups that might need to pay particular attention.

Living Arrangements and Marital Status

The ONS recently released its analysis of 2011 Census data into the changes that have happened since 2001 to marital status and living arrangements. The key points from that analysis provide some interesting insights:

· Around 45 to 48 per cent of adults in England and Wales were married

· Single (never married) people grew the most as a category in proportion to other categories from 30 per cent of the population to 35 per cent

· London had the highest proportion of single people in its adult population with a younger age structure than other regions

· More than 50 per cent of adult were living together, either as co-habiting or married couples

· 3.7 per cent of married people living in a household were not living together as a married couple but neither were they separated, an increase of 71 per cent. 87 per cent of these were married or in a civil partnership with each other, the rest were likely to be co-habiting with another partner but separated from their spouse

· 12 per cent of adults were living as cohabiting couples, an increase of 9.8 per cent. Couples cohabiting in the 40 to 49 age group had the largest overall increase from 9.3 per cent in 2001 to 14 per cent in 2011.


The clearest trend to emerge is that co-habiting outside the formalities of marriage or civil partnership has had the largest increase since 2001. The age group where this is most prominent is in 40 to 49 year olds.

This has important implications for the individuals involved. Although people cohabiting at a later stage in life may feel a greater sense of security even if they are not married; this is not the case in legal terms. It is important where children or significant assets are involved that there is a clear understanding of what should happen if the arrangement comes to an end.

For specialist advice, please contact Jeetesh Patel via e- mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.

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