Unmarried couples could be granted 'divorce' rights

Law reform for unmarried couples

02.11.2006

Ministers are planning new laws which could see unmarried couples claim a share of each others wealth if they break up.

Couples who have been living together could be able to claim a share of the wealth of their ex-partner, entitling them to lump sums, maintenance payments or a share of property or pensions.

Divorce rights

It was proposed by the law commission this year that the new rights should be limited to unmarried couples with children or those who had been together for over a certain period of time.

However, ministers do not seem inclined to impose limits, which were proposed by the Commission, and although they do accept that couples who have children together or have lived together for a certain period of time are more likely to be eligible they say that say that people would not have an automatic right to settlements and people would have to show they have suffered or their partner has significantly benefited financially due to the relationship.

However, couples will be able to opt out of the new rights system by signing cohabitation contracts which would be enforced by law.

However, these announcements could cause some concern with the Church, and although they have expressed sympathy towards new rights to help lessen the financial impact on couples with children after relationship breakdown, they are opposed to rights based on the length of relationship.

In the next 25 years, the amount of co-habiting couples in Britain is set to double, from 2 million to four.

Divorce solicitors

Divorce Solicitor Alison Straw of national law firm Irwin Mitchell Solicitors said Law reform is welcome since it will once and for all dispel the myth of "Common Law Spouse". For years people have believed that just by living with someone for long enough automatically gives them financial rights. Under the proposed new laws that myth will become a reality giving cohabitees the opportunity to achieve a fairer outcome on separation.