We’ve read with interest an article which was published in The Times on 1st November. The article by Rosemary Bennet, titled: “Children return to the nest with their partners in tow” highlights a growing trend in which offspring return to the family home, bringing their partner with them and creating a multi-family household.
The number of multi-households in the UK has risen by a massive 39 per cent compared to a decade ago. A number of factors are thought to have contributed to this increase including student debt, rising property prices and problems securing a mortgage.
The Office of National Statistic’s annual Families and Households survey also found that there had been a significant fall in the traditional nuclear family, comprising of married parents who have children.
With a total of 1.9 million, half a million more children live with unmarried parents compared to ten years ago. However, when this figure is considered as a proportion of all families who have children, this half a million are in the minority, accounting for only one in seven.
8.4 million children live with parents who are married and this figure has fallen by 400,000 compared to a decade ago.
According to the article, these figures suggest that cohabiting is no longer a ‘trial-run’ for marriage but is more of a permanent situation for many couples. Parents who cohabit are more likely to separate than those who are married, with 33 per cent separating before their child is 5 – four times the separation rate of married parents.
Lawyers feel that the legal system hasn’t kept up with these changes with the result that many parents are left ‘high and dry’ when they split up. The article quotes Fiona Wood, a partner at Pannone Solicitors: “People are happy to have children and not be married in far greater numbers than ever before. However, the law has simply not kept up with what happens if these relationships end.
“A cohabiting mother in what might be thought of as a traditional household, where she either doesn’t work or earns a low income, currently isn’t protected at all. They can claim child maintenance from their former cohabitee until the children grow up, but they cannot make financial claims for themselves.”
The previous UK Government rejected proposed changes to the law which would have given long-term cohabiting couples similar rights to those who are married. The number of children living in one-parent families has fallen by 36,000 since 2003.
A director of the Marriage Foundation, Harry Benson, said these figures were surprising given that the rate of relationship break-up remains high: “I think the high cost of living could be driving lone parents to re-partner or re-marry to try and shoulder the burden.”