The rise of cohabitation in recent years and what it means for many couples

Cohabiting couples have become increasingly common in recent years, with more people choosing to live together without getting married.

In fact, the number of cohabiting couples has more than doubled in the past two decades.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 3.4 million cohabiting couples in the UK in 2019, up from 1.5 million in 1996.

This represents a significant shift in societal norms, as cohabitation was once viewed as a taboo or unconventional practice.

Today, however, it is seen as a viable alternative to marriage, particularly among younger generations.

What has changed?

One of the main reasons behind the increase in cohabitation is changing attitudes towards marriage.

Marriage rates have been in decline in the UK for decades, and many people now see cohabitation as a more flexible and less restrictive option.

The 2021 census found that 1.2 million more people aged 25-35 were unmarried than in 2011, with the figure now at 5.8 million according to the last census.

Another factor that has contributed to the rise of cohabitation is the changing economic landscape.

Younger people are finding it increasingly difficult to afford the cost of getting married.

The cost of living has also risen significantly in the last year or so, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it more difficult for people to save for a wedding.

As a result, many people are choosing to live together instead of getting married, as it allows them to split the cost of living and save money.

Issues with cohabitation

Despite the growing popularity of cohabitation, there are still some challenges that cohabiting couples may face.

Many people assume that cohabiting couples have the same legal rights as married couples or couples in civil partnerships, which is not the case.

Cohabiting couples do not have automatic rights to inherit from each other or to make decisions on behalf of their partner in the event of an accident or illness.

There can also be serious issues if the relationship ends and property, finances and other assets have to be divided.

While cohabitation is a plausible option for many, it is important for couples to understand the legal implications and seek advice to ensure that they are protected.

For help and advice with family and relationship matters, please get in touch with Alison Green, Head of our Family and Relationship Team at Mackrell.Solicitors on +44 (0) 20 7240 0521 or at

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Alison Green
Alison has more than 25 years’ experience assisting clients with Family and Relationship matters. Her expertise covers matrimonial work, including divorce and the associated financial and children issues; pre and post-nuptial agreements; co-habitation disputes; civil partnership agreements and the breakdown of civil partnerships.