Research Shows ‘Cohabitation Needs To Be Back On Government Agenda’

Resolution Report Reveals MPs ‘Want Better Protection For Unmarried Couples’


By Rob Dixon

New figures revealing more than half of MPs believe laws need to be updated in relation to cohabitation are a clear sign that changing the law in relation to the area should be considered once more, according to specialist family law experts.

The research by family law group Resolution found that 69 per cent of parliamentarians think there is a mistaken belief in the concept of ‘common law marriage’, with 57 per cent stating that the law should  be changed to provide better protection to unmarried couples.

It also revealed that three quarters of MPs believe legal rights for cohabiting couples remain unclear, with 60 per cent adding there is a need for more protection to help such couples when they separate.

The study was released as the Liberal Democrats passed a policy designed to ensure unmarried couples gain fair and reasonable redress, both in cases of relationship breakdown and intestacy.

These developments come after a Law Commission report examined the issue several years ago, when  the Government failed to act on the proposals for reform.

Alison Hawes, a Partner and specialist family lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office, said: “These figures, when twinned with the policy passed at the Lib Dem conference, show that there remains a strong appetite for the issue of reforming cohabitation laws to be put under the microscope once again.

“It is inarguable that times have changed and in the 21st century, it is increasingly common for people to choose to live with a partner without entering into a civil partnership or marriage.

“Official figures have shown that 5.9 million people were cohabiting in the UK in 2012, which was double the number in 1996. This is a huge number of people who do not have any significant form of legal protection if their relationships were to break down.”

Alison added: “We have seen a growing number of instances when cohabiting couples are unaware of the rights they do and do not have, with many of our clients strongly believing a change in law is vital.

“At present, the only way around this issue is to put a cohabitation agreement in place. Much like a pre-nup, this would enable both parties to outline how they would like assets divided in the event that their relationship does come to an end.”

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