Living In Sin could lead to claims if a relationship crumbles

Unmarried couple separation

31.05.2006

National law firm Irwin Mitchell today welcomed the suggested law reforms outlined in today's consultation paper on unmarried couples.

The proposed reforms, headed up by High Court Judge Sir Roger Toulson could see unmarried couples share pensions, pay lump sums and sell their homes if the government acts on the advised law reforms today. The government is expecting a draft bill by Summer 2007.

Unmarried couple's legal advice

Martin Loxley, Head of family law at national law firm Irwin Mitchell said "The issue of divorce and who deserves what in settlements has been put firmly back in the spotlight by the recent Miller v Miller and McFarlane v McFarlane cases, as well as the impending £800 million divorce battle between Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. However, the fact that two million Britons so called live in sin means that what the Law Commission has outlined today in its consultation paper will affect an increasing number of people. The proposed changes it suggests are most welcome. They have hinted the suggested reforms could also appease the Church of England as they may actually encourage more people to enter into marriage, because financial responsibilities could no longer be avoided by just living with a partner. However, I still think the Church will look on the proposed changed in a negative way, citing the demise of marriage vows which simply wouldn't be true.

"The fact is that married couples and same sex couples are all legally taken care of should they ever split, meaning that this consultation paper was needed to bring into line where the 2 million unmarried people who live together in England stand on the issue of financial settlements."

Unmarried couple's solicitor

Mr Loxley continued, "The suggested measures are not as far reaching as the divorce laws. The Law Commission has said that the suggested reforms would apply to same sex and heterosexual couples who have been together for a minimum period of time, although the minimum period was not outlined, and this is one of the key points that needs clarification."

The Law Commission has highlighted it favours the clean break principle used in divorce laws rather than carrying on a long term legal row when it comes to unmarried couples splitting up.

Mr Loxley continued, "The clean break principle is a good idea but in a case where there is a mother who has sacrificed her career to bring up children it may not be fair. Every case must be looked at individually and in light of the House of Lords decision in McFarlane if the current suggestions become law it will be very interesting to see how the Courts award maintenance to a cohabiting couple who have separated. Splitting up is always incredibly painful for any couple, and if lengthy wranglings over estates and financial settlements can be avoided then this should be welcomed."

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