Family Lawyers Urge Cohabitation Law Change

Irwin Mitchell Survey Shows 74 Per Cent Support Updated Law On Living Together


A leading family lawyer says the current laws on couples living together, established almost 40 years ago, need updating to reflect modern attitudes towards relationships because they are ‘out of touch with society’.

Martin Loxley, Head of Family Law at Irwin Mitchell, made the calls as the national law firm surveyed a serious of expert family law barristers and solicitors with 74 per cent saying they felt cohabitation laws should be updated.

Loxley, whose Irwin Mitchell family law practice is ranked as the top team in Yorkshire by Chambers independent legal guide, said: “It’s quite clear that the law relating to cohabitation need updating. There is a strong feeling amongst family lawyers that people living together for a prolonged period of time need to be afforded similar rights to married couples.

“The law in this area has not changed since 1973 and people living together, with or without children, are not currently afforded the same rights as people who have married or have a civil partnership.

“Many of our clients are astounded that in some cases their futures are being decided on laws that are 40 years old when attitudes to relationships have changed significantly in that time.”

One of the most difficult issues is how to define what cohabitation is and when the rights for couples should start. At a special debate between expert family solicitors and barristers, hosted by Irwin Mitchell, several factors were suggested including when the couple spends two nights a week there, or when they get a joint bank account together. In America one of the factors is if the new partner gets post sent to the address.

Loxley added “It is a particularly complex area of family law but also a very hot topic now that divorce is at its highest level ever and many unmarried or previously married couples are living together long-term.”