According to government figures, the number of couples opting to live together without getting married or entering into a civil partnership increased by 137% in the 24 years between 1996 and 2020.
Why such a spike in cohabitation over the last two decades or so? Changing attitudes in society over couples living together before (or instead of) getting married has surely played a large part, but so has the more ‘practical’ point of view that living with your other half before tying the knot, could save a lot of heartache in the future.
Using cohabitation to make sure you are right for each other
Anyone who has ever moved in with a partner will testify to the fact that you do not really know someone until you have shared the same living space for a few months.
Everything from how tidy you both are, to how your attitudes to money management differ or dovetail can be revealed by living under the same roof together. In this sense, moving in before marriage can be a really good way to ensure that you are the right ‘fit’ before booking in the big day. And as studies have revealed that money worries are the leading cause of divorce, making sure you are both on the same page first when it comes to spending, and managing the household finances in general, can be extremely valuable.
There is no such thing as a “common law marriage”
Contrary to popular belief, common law marriages, in the legal sense at least, do not exist in England and Wales.
Unlike marriage, cohabiting with a partner does not bring with it any general legal rights and responsibilities. When a married couple’s relationship breaks down, there are specifically designed laws to deal with the consequences (financial and otherwise). These are often referred to as ‘divorce law’. On the contrary, there are no specific laws which deal with the breakdown of a cohabiting couple’s relationship.
While cohabiting may sound like an attractive way to test out a relationship before committing, it is important to be aware that if there is a dispute over, for example, the family home, other, often extremely complex laws come into play which were not specifically designed for the breakdown of a relationship.
Some couples choose to enter into a cohabitation agreement before moving in together. This sets out the obligations and rights each party has in the event of a break-up. As always, it is important to seek legal advice to find out whether this would be suitable for your circumstances.
Whether living together before taking the next step is right for you is a very personal choice. As always, there are positives and negatives both ways.
To find out whether a cohabitation agreement could be helpful for you and your partner, get in touch to book your free consultation with a specialist family lawyer today.