Cohabitation Rights Bill
At present, cohabiting couples have few legal rights as compared to their married counterparts. A separated cohabiting couple, do not have rights over each other’s property, pensions or even maintenance even where one cohabitee has relied on the other for income.
This maybe about to change however, as the Cohabitation Rights Bill has had its second reading in the House of Lords and has passed through to Committee stage.
Steve Kirwan, who leads the group Resolutions work on Cohabitation Law reform, comments, “Ultimately, the law needs to reflect the standards of modern society, and in the case of cohabitation, it does not. More couples are living together than ever before, with an estimated 2,859,000 cohabiting households in Britain – that’s a significant portion of the country who are currently served by outdated and unfair laws. The current law on cohabitation is in desperate need of change and we believe that even Lord Marks’ Bill, whilst welcome, does not go far enough to address the inequality in the current system”.
Resolution proposes a new law that will create a system that is genuinely fair for cohabiting couples. Under the proposed reforms, couples in a committed relationship who have lived together for a minimum period or who have a child together would have the right to apply for certain Financial Orders, similar to those currently offered to married couples upon separation. This right would be automatic unless the couple chooses to ‘opt out’.
Until the Cohabitation law is in place however, caution is advised and cohabitants should continue to seek legal advice at significant points in their relationship, not only when the relationship breaks down, but for example when a property is being purchased for their occupation, to ensure fairness.
The text of the Cohabitation Rights Bill, as introduced can be read here.