Yesterday the Office for National Statistics published its latest set of marriage statistics and I doubt many family lawyers were surprised by the key finding: a further rise in the number of people living together. Last year 9.5 per cent of everyone over 16 was doing so, while the number of married people had fallen by almost a whole percentage point – from 51.5 per cent in 2014 to 50.6 per cent last year.
We’ve seen a steady shift in this direction for years now. If you want to avoid the potential financial consequences of divorce the best approach is to never get married in the first place of course – and it seems ever greater numbers are voting with their feet and doing just that. But there is a downside to all this new-found freedom: if you are the financially weaker party in a cohabiting relationship, your partner is under no obligation to acknowledge the time you have devoted to the relationship or the sacrifices you may have made – for example, giving up work to raise the children. They can simply leave, and with no cohabitation law in England and Wales, you may be left with very little. Can that be right?
In this new video I take a look at this pronounced social shift, compare English and Scottish approaches to this complex issue and ask whether it is finally time to consider the plight of the cohabitant.