Marriage is the main cause of legal cohabitation termination

Marriage is the main cause of legal cohabitation termination

Declarations and terminations of legal cohabitation

Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, publishes for the first time data on legal cohabitations. Around 40,000 declarations of legal cohabitation are signed every year. In 2017, it amounted to 39,038 instances. In that same year, 24,764 legal cohabitations have been terminated. For little more than half of them (55 %), it ended in marriage. On average, legal cohabitation ends after 4.3 years.

The declaration of legal cohabitation appeared in 2000. It proved to be quite a success from the very start[1] The number of declarations has also continued to regularly increase in the following years. For the past 7 years, this figure has remained stable at around 40,000 declarations per year. In 2017, there were 39,038 new cohabitations. This number has slightly decreased compared to 2016 (-2.5 %).

At the same time, the number of terminations of legal cohabitation is steadily growing since 2000. In 2017, there were 24,764 terminations, that is an increase of 5.1 % compared to the previous year. In more than half the cases (55 %), marriage is the cause of the termination.

Other results for the year 2017:

  • The declarations of legal cohabitation are for the great majority done by single people (73.3 %), Belgians (83.3 %) and persons of opposite sex (96.6 %).
  • The average age when entering into legal cohabitation remains stable at 36 for the first cohabitant and 33.5 for the second. The age difference does not vary either: 2.5 years.
  • December is the month that registers, almost every year, the largest number of declarations of legal cohabitation (10 % in 2017).
  • The average duration of terminated cohabitations is 4.3 years.
  • The gross "cohabitation" rate amounts to 3.4 ‰.

Legal cohabitation refers to the situation where two people living together make a declaration to this effect to their municipal administration, regardless of their sex or kinship. It is therefore different from marriage or a partnership contracted abroad.

[1]The number of declarations of legal cohabitation was particularly high in 2001, with 10,796 declarations. Since 2000, the possibility to make a cohabitation official has led the following year to a 'catch-up' effect to legalize cohabitations that would have been formalized sooner had it been possible.