06 march 2024

More adult children are living with their parents - what does this mean for family law?

Discussing the recently released ONS stats, Partner Nick Gova looks at the increasing trend for adult children to live in their parents’ homes, and what this means for family law.

With the cost-of-living crisis ongoing, it is no wonder that more children are still living with their parents well into their young adulthood. 

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that around 22.4% of families have an adult child living with them – up from 13.6% in 2011. The ONS data also found that non-dependent children over the age of 18 were more likely to live with parents in areas where housing was less affordable, and more male adult children (60.8%) were living with their parents than female adult children (39.2%).

The primary reason why adult children are staying at home as they cannot afford to get on the property ladder. If you work near where your parents live, you have the choice of going home and living there or a very overpriced rented room. Equally, the rising costs for young adults such as university costs could be a contributing factor. This in effect has a huge impact on the ability of young people to manage to live independently whilst they are establishing themselves.

Should adult children be charged rent?

One recent survey of 1,000 British parents whose adult children live at home found that just over half (55%) of the respondents charge their kids rent.

However, the average rent price set by the parents was just £25.55 per week – or £110.71 per month.

There are two trains of thought. Many parents want to provide for children for as long as possible, even into their majority. Others take the view that once they are considered an ‘adult’ or over 18, they must fend for themselves. It is not unreasonable to expect a contribution to household costs if your adult child is working. However, if that child’s focus is to become independent, save for a deposit to buy a property, most parents take the view it would be better for them to do this, than pay rent.

Whether or not to charge a child rent is a complex interplay of financial education, family dynamics and personal development.

Looking at what the law has to say, the Courts take a very arbitrary view on whether a child is considered an adult or remains a child for the purposes of considering financial matters. In most instances, the Court would provide financial provision for a ‘child of the family’ up to the age of 18 or until the completion of a university degree, including a gap year either side of the degree. Following this, they would be considered financially independent. 

Why are more adult children living at home?

In a nutshell, property is now unaffordable for many young people. The volatility of the property market, including high interest rates for mortgages, has meant that what would have been considered favourable deposits with affordable mortgages in years gone by are no longer possible.

This situation has raised further legal issues, such as whether those adult children staying with their parents contribute to the cost of the household. If they do, would they gain an interest in the property? If that adult child marries, would their spouse live with them and if so, would they gain an interest in the property? Other issues that could occur are in relation to inheritance and whether certain assets are ring-fenced for a particular adult child by virtue of them never having left home.

Multi-generational house set-ups

We can expect to see increasing numbers of multi-generational house set-ups as more young people cannot afford property – this is becoming a common issue within my practice.

Within the realm of divorce proceedings and financial matters, clients with adult children tend to seek properties to accommodate them, especially if the family home is to be sold, as their children will have nowhere to go.

Final thoughts

While there are benefits to staying at home for adult children – including saving money and possibly providing assistance to elderly parents – the situation must be approached carefully, as it can cause conflict and delayed independence.

Communication is key to creating a harmonious living environment, with proper boundaries and ground rules in place, as this trend is only likely to increase in line with the rising costs of property.

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Nick Gova
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Please note that this post has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information in a non-specific situation. Legal advice should be taken in relation to your particular circumstances. It is not intended that this post is relied upon by any party, and no liability is accepted for reliance.