According to a recent House of Commons briefing, the number of opposite sex cohabiting couples doubled between 1996 and 2015.
With over three million cohabiting couples in England and Wales, and increasing numbers of children born outside of marriage or civil partnerships, this is the fastest growing type of relationship. It is the modern relationship.
Despite this, there remain clear legal differences between regulated relationships such as marriage and civil partnerships and unregulated cohabitation.
The Cohabitation Rights Bill, which is in the early stages of passing through parliament, is intended to address the rights of cohabiting couples. Its first reading in the Lords took place in summer 2015. The second reading, which will see general debate on all aspects of the bill, is yet to be scheduled.
It is important for the law to catch up with societal change in this area; our family justice system needs to ensure that it benefits, protects and respects all 21st century families, including those who do not want to enter into a marriage or civil partnership but still wish to benefit from the legal protection presently only afforded to those in regulated relationships.
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