Call to finally reform cohabitation laws

Improving the rights of cohabitees is something the next government needs to look at as a matter of urgency, a leading law group has said.

Resolution, the association of family lawyers, is lobbying for unmarried couples who live together to receive at least basic legal protection.

Changes to cohabitation laws have been discussed for decades and have widespread support in large sections of the legal profession, who argue that the UK’s ageing legal framework needs to be updated for the 21st century. Over half of MPs are also in favour of reform.

The need for change was highlighted by figures released earlier this year which revealed there are now six million people living together in the UK who are in neither a marriage nor civil partnership. Indeed, this arrangement is the fastest growing family group in the country.

With this in mind, Resolution has included better protection for cohabitees in its ‘Manifesto for Family Law’ –  mentioned on this blog earlier in the week.

A spokesman said: “It is possible to live together with someone for decades and even to have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner.

“This needs to change. Currently, a rapid growing proportion of the population have limited rights or ability to access support if their relationship breaks down.”

Resolution has argued that England and Wales need to move towards a similar system to countries such as Scotland and Australia, where cohabitees have formal legal rights.

This would mean that cohabitees who can demonstrate they have been in a committed relationship would have the right to apply for certain financial orders if they separate.

The Court would be able to make similar orders as currently apply in divorce cases, although Resolution concedes there would be key differences and the rules applying to unmarried couples would have a more limited reach.