Census data, analysed by the Office for National Statistics for the period 2001 and 2011, have found an increase in cohabiting couples from 14% to 17% in the UK. This may not be surprising and simply evidence of how times have changed – in that many people do not feel the need to formalise their relationship by getting married.

But what hasn’t caught up with the times is the law.

Do the cohabitation figures show a need for law reform?

Many say yes, because contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a common law wife or husband. The only way couples can protect their assets in the event they split up is to put something in writing.

We act for many clients who ask us to prepare cohabitation agreements and these offer clients a lot more protection than having nothing in place at all, about what would happen in the event (however unlikely) of their split. Similarly to marital agreements, they allow each party to state what would happen with their assets if they were to split up.

The moral of the story – it’s better to have something in writing then not.

For developments in the area of cohabitation law.. watch this space. The first reading of a proposed Cohabitation Rights Bill took place last year and again in June, but it will still be some time before any legislation is made.

If you’d like more information about this article, please feel free to contact Elizabeth Marsh one of our family lawyers on either 01865 781183 or elizabeth.marsh@henmansfreeth.co.uk