Declarations of legal cohabitation

The number of legal cohabitation declarations and terminations decrease

The number of legal cohabitation declarations and terminations decrease

36,329 declarations of legal cohabitation were notified. This is a 11% decrease compared to 2019. The number of legal cohabitation terminations decreases even more: -16.9% compared to 2019 to 21,845.

The average duration of legal cohabitation before termination continues to increase from 4.8 years in 2019 to 5.2 years in 2020.

In 2020, marriage was the first cause of legal cohabitation termination in 47.9% of cases, and the declaration by mutual agreement in 41.8% of cases. In 2019, 53.3% of legal cohabitations ended in a marriage and 38.2% following a declaration by mutual agreement.

Legal cohabitation occurs around the age of 30

In 2019, it is around the age of thirty that single partners enter into legal cohabitation for the first time: on average at 31.6 years for the first cohabitant and 29.7 years for the second. The age difference within the couple remains stable: 1.9 years for legal cohabitants.

Table 1

Evolution of the number of legal cohabitation declarations per year and administrative unit, since 2000

Administrative unit Year
2000 2005 2010 2015 2019 2020
Belgium 2,694 15,513 36,962 40,770 40,801 36,329
Brussels-Capital Region 121 1,594 2,957 3,125 3,072 2,790
Flemish Region 2,040 7,569 21,928 23,335 24,561 21,457
Walloon Region 533 6,350 12,077 14,310 13,168 12,082
Table 2

Evolution of the number of legal cohabitation terminations per year and administrative unit, since 2000

Administrative unit Year
2000 2005 2010 2015 2019 2020
Belgium 111 3,299 13,487 22,227 26,301 21,845
Brussels-Capital Region 5 271 909 1,340 1,439 1,283
Flemish Region 83 1,909 7,779 13,326 15,814 13,285
Walloon Region 22 1,039 4,472 7,099 8,742 7,133

Statbel publishes for the first time this year a statistic on the declaration of legal cohabitation using the National Register of Natural Persons (RNPP). According to the law of 23 November 1998 establishing legal cohabitation (published in the Belgian Official Journal on 12 January 1999), two persons living together have the possibility, since 1st January 2000, to officially confirm the fact that they live together. Therefore, there is legal cohabitation when two persons living together make a declaration to this effect to their local authorities, irrespective of their sex and relationship. The conditions for such a declaration are the following:

  • having the legal capacity to enter into a contract
  • not being married
  • not being in a legal cohabitation with another person The civil registrar is required to verify compliance with the legal conditions and to register the declaration in the RNPP.

In Belgium, legal cohabitation refers in principle to a situation where two persons live together. However, we have been able to detect some rare cases of registration of legal cohabitation through consular offices abroad.

The current statistic is produced using the information type “legal cohabitation” (I.T. 123) of the RNPP. The I.T. 123 registers a series of data relating to legal cohabitation, including the date of the declaration, the place of registration of the declaration (municipality of residence), the presence of a notarial contract (with the date and place of signature), the date and the reasons of termination. By coupling this information with other I.T. in the RNPP, we can characterise the cohabitants and create tables based on the sex, the age, the nationality, etc. A foreigner residing illegally on the territory can legally enter into legal cohabitation provided that he/she, together with the person with whom he/she is living, has a common principal residence in Belgium.

However, this statistic does not include any cases of two persons living together who are registered in the waiting register. In order to get a coherent statistic, we also have excluded some rare cases where there is a contradiction between the civil status and the situation of legal cohabitation (clearly married (or divorced) persons based on a “reasonable” observation period; cases related to a late - but “reasonable” - registration of divorces are therefore included in the statistics).