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Cohabitation Law reform on the horizon?

View profile for Caroline  Elliott
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It is a common myth that couples who live together, known as “cohabitees,” are protected under ‘common law marriage’ but this is not the case. There are approximately 3.6 million cohabitating couples in the UK and such family types have very few legal rights when the relationship breaks down or if one cohabitee was to pass away without a Will. Family lawyers have been campaigning for years for a change in the law to give cohabitating couples and their children more protection.

Despite this successive governments or opposition politicians have shown little interest in making changes to the law which would help this large group of families – until perhaps now. 

At the Labour Party Conference, Emily Thornberry MP, the Shadow Attorney General, announced that a future Labour Government would reform the laws surrounding cohabitating couples.  

Thornberry said that as part of this reform, women would be given increased rights to access financial support in the event that a relationship breaks down so that they are not forced to stay in an unhappy or abusive relationship. The reform would offer cohabitating couples the same type of protection that married couples get and work in favour those in cohabitating relationships who earn significantly less than the other, supporting those who feel trapped in their relationship due to not being financially secure enough to leave.

While this may be a positive step in the right direction, until reform takes place, the law surrounding cohabitating couples is complex. For that reason it is important to always seek legal advice to obtain an understanding of what rights individuals have if the relationship were to break down or one partner were to pass away.

If you have any questions relating to cohabitation law, please get in touch with our family law team who will be happy to help.