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Separation more common between unmarried cohabiting parents, study suggests

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New UK research suggests that unmarried cohabiting couples with children are now more likely to separate than their married counterparts.

According to social campaigners the Marriage Foundation, approximately 66,500 unmarried parents separated last year, in comparison with around 62,500 married parents.

The Foundation says that 2016 marks the first time that the number of cohabiting couples who separated overtook the number of married couples who split up.

It adds that there are approximately 1.3 million cohabiting parents across the UK, up from just 950,000 recorded 11 years ago.

After analysing data compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Marriage Foundation has said that it estimates that unmarried cohabiting parents now make up approximately 21 per cent of all couples living in the UK, while married parents who live together make up 79 per cent.

Harry Benson, research director at the Marriage Foundation, said: “The great paradox of UK family statistics is that family breakdown has been going up for years while divorce has been going down for years.

“The reason – as repeatedly shown by Marriage Foundation research – is the trend away from relatively stable marriage and toward relatively unstable cohabitation.

“Our new finding reveals that we have crossed a watershed. Cohabiting parents, despite being only one fifth of couples, now account for the majority of family breakdowns,” he added,

Separate research recently highlighted by Family Law Week suggests that three quarters of unmarried couples who live together wrongfully assume that they are entitled to the same rights as those who are married or in a civil partnership.

However, without the legal protection of a Will or cohabitation agreement, such individuals actually have no legal right to claim ownership of one another’s property or assets in the event of a separation.

This can pose a serious problem in instances where one party is deemed the sole owner of a family home.

MFG Solicitors’ family team can advise on preparing a cohabitation agreement and also on property rights for cohabiting couples.