Publication - Consultation paper

Future of civil partnership: consultation

Published: 28 Sep 2018

This consultation seeks views on the options for the future of civil partnership in Scotland.

Future of civil partnership: consultation
Annex B: Cohabitation in Scotland

Annex B: Cohabitation in Scotland


1. In Scotland, cohabitants are given some rights although these are generally lower than rights for married couples or civil partners.

2. In particular, the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 made provisions on rights for cohabitants. Cohabitants are defined as a couple who live together as if married [39] . The 2006 Act provisions apply equally to same and opposite sex couples. Their application may vary depending on the length and nature of the relationship, and any financial arrangements.


3. The provisions made by the 2006 Act mean that cohabitants have:

  • A presumption of an equal share in household goods bought during the time the couple lived together.
  • An equal share in money derived from an allowance made by one or other of the couple for household expenses and/or any property bought out of that money.
  • On separation, a right in certain circumstances to ask the court to make an order for financial provision against the other former cohabitant.
  • A right to apply to the court for an order for money or property from the estate if a cohabitant dies without leaving a will.
  • The right to apply to court for a "domestic interdict" in domestic abuse cases. Such orders could, for example, restrain or prohibit conduct of a person towards the applicant or any child in the care of the applicant.


4. The most recent figures on cohabiting couples in Scotland are from the 2011 Census. This found that:

  • In 2011, there were 1.5 million families [40] living in households in Scotland. Of these, 65 per cent (967,000) were married couple families, 16 per cent (237,000) were cohabiting couple families and 19 per cent (291,000) were lone parent families. [41]
  • Of the 2.4 million households [42] at the time of the 2011 census, 9% of households were cohabiting couple families (217,000) in comparison to 32% (758,000) of households which were married or same sex civil partnered couple families (either with or without children). [43]
  • While marriage/civil partnership is still the most popular option for couples, the percentage of married or civil partnered families has fallen since 2001, from 38% to 32% of all households. In comparison, the percentage of cohabiting couple families has risen from 7% to 9%. [44]
  • 17% of those aged 20-24 and 28% of those aged 25-29 lived as a cohabiting couple. In comparison 3% and 18% respectively were living as a married couple. [45]
  • Of the 614,000 families with dependent children in 2011, 15% (91,000) were cohabiting couple families. [46]
  • Married or same sex civil partnered couples were more likely to have children than cohabiting couples (61 per cent of married or same sex civil partnered couple families compared with 46 per cent of cohabiting couple families). [47]