The latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics reveal that the number of opposite sex cohabiting couple families has increased significantly, from 2.2 million in 2003 to 2.9 million in 2013.
In 2013 there were 18.2 million families in the UK. Of these, 12.3 million consisted of a married couple with or without children.
There were nearly 1.9 million lone parents with dependent children in the UK in 2013, a figure which has grown steadily but not significantly from 1.8 million in 2003.
The fastest growing household type was households containing two or more families, increasing by 39% from 206,000 households in 2003 to 286,000 households in 2013.
In 2010 the Office of National Statistics projected that the number of cohabiting couple families would increase to 3.3 million by 2033 however the latest figures reveal that this figure may be reached much sooner than anticipated.
These figures show that cohabitation between couples, friends and even between different families is the latest trend, however, the law has not kept up with these developments and many people still believe that they have the same rights as married couples when it comes to property and assets, which is not correct. People need to give careful consideration to how they protect themselves and their families when cohabiting and in particular reach and sign Cohabitation Agreements to record the terms of their cohabitation, including rights to property.
By Donna Leigh, family law solicitor