Judge calls for change to cohabiting couples rights

A High Court judge has called for the legal rights available to married couples on divorce to be extended to separating couples who are not married.   

Sir Nicholas Mostyn does not believe that in some way a marriage is a better form of relationship than a couple living together.

Contradicting a former eminent High Court Judge Sir Paul Collerige, he stated that any social engineering should be based on support for families and not on the type of relationship and disputed there was any evidence from which it could be concluded that a married relationship was more stable than cohabitation.

“It is not the role of the state, in my humble opinion, to go round telling people how they should form their relationships,’ he said.

“I do not support two classes of adjudication depending on whether there happens to be a marriage.”

He added that he supported the extension of the existing system of judicial equitable distribution to unmarried couples.  He does however say that thanks to the Supreme Court the lot of the unmarried is very much better than it was.

His comments were made during a speech to a family law conference and come off the back of increasing pressure to adopt new laws and conventions to give cohabitees the same rights as married couples when relationships break up.

His statements came just days after Sir James Munby, the head of the Family Division, said that cohabitees should be protected by law, and married couples who want to divorce should no longer need to go to court to end the marriage.