New figures from the Office for National Statistics have hit the headlines this week showing that contrary to popular belief, the divorce rate is going down, not up, and is now at the lowest level its been for 40 years. And the average time that a marriage lasts is 11.7 years. One family lawyer said cohabitation appeared to be operating as a form of “natural selection” for relationships, with only the fittest surviving into marriage and beyond.  Others in the media speculate that its the gloomy economic climate that means people are 'stuck' together as they can't afford to divorce.  The figures certainly reflect the growing trend of people choosing to live together rather than marry. Indeed, over 50% of children now born in the UK are born out of 'wedlock' : the number of unwed couples bringing up children has grown by 132% since 1996 to almost 1.3 million. With 1 in 5 households in this country now cohabiting, it surely is time for the law to reflect modern times and change accordingly. 

The Cohabitation Rights Bill is in the early stages of passing through parliament, but it’s unwise to expect any change soon or indeed at all. In the meantime, those couples labouring under the misapprehension of  'Common Law Spouse' rights really do need to know this: there is NO SUCH THING as a common law husband or wife, and if your relationship does sadly hit the buffers, you really may not have the protection you think.