There has been a tendency for people to cohabitate instead of marrying.
What is Cohabitation?
The particularity of cohabitation is that a couple are living as husband and wife without actually being married.
In determining cohabitation, a number of factors are taken into account: the couple living under one roof; the parties having on-going sexual relationship; the financial support of one party to the other; the stability and permanence of the parties; and whether the reasonable person, taking account of the couple's life together, would deem them as an unmarried cohabiting couple.
There are a number of differences, however, between cohabiting couples and married couples which include the following: there are formalities such as a decree of nullity or divorce to end a marriage but the same does not exist for cohabitation; a married father is afforded greater status with regards to children and parentage; a cohabiting couple cannot make a joint application to adopt a child; and the law with regards to financial provision during marriage and at the breakdown of marriage does not apply to a couple cohabiting.
It is important to note that most of the important provisions of the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 are now in force. This allows same sex couples to register their partnerships. This also means that the law has been more prepared to accept partnerships which are not marriages. The Law Commission has published its final report in July 2007 with regards to the financial consequences of breakdown in cohabitation.