Government rejects rights for cohabiting couples

As we explained here back in August, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, which holds Government to account on equality law and policy, published a report recommending that cohabiting couples be given the right to apply for financial relief upon relationship breakdown.

The Government has now responded to the report.

The report recommended that a scheme of scheme of rights for cohabitants that was recommended by the Law Commission in 2007 be implemented.

The Government has rejected this recommendation.

The Government says that the scheme should be looked at afresh, and that in any event the Government is intending to review the law on marriage and financial provision upon divorce, and any changes to the law relating to cohabitation should wait until the outcome of that review.

The report also recommended that the Government should conduct a national public awareness campaign to highlight the legal distinctions between getting married, forming a civil partnership, or choosing to live together as cohabiting partners, as the Committee was concerned that many cohabitants believe that they have the same rights as married couples.

The Government agrees that it is important that people are aware of the legal distinctions between getting married, forming a civil partnership and living together as cohabitants.

However, it said that the Department for Education’s statutory guidance on relationships education includes the need for schools to ensure that pupils should be aware of what marriage is, including its legal status. In view of this, the Government does not consider a national campaign necessary, but says it will review the information currently available to the public in this sphere.

The Women and Equalities Committee Chair Caroline Nokes MP has criticised the Government’s response, saying:

“It is deeply disappointing that the Government has closed off the possibility of better legal protections for cohabiting partners for the foreseeable future.

“In doing so it relies on flawed logic. Weddings law and financial provision on divorce are wholly separate areas of family law. There is no reason the Government should not prioritise law reform for cohabiting partners alongside this.

“Moreover, changes to weddings and divorce law could take many years. This response effectively kicks the issue into the long grass and risks leaving a growing number of cohabitants financially vulnerable.

“The Committee welcomes the Government’s recognition that there must be better guidance on cohabitants’ rights. We have agreed to follow up on the committed actions in the coming months.”

As we explained in our previous post, if you have been in a cohabiting relationship your rights will be very limited. If you do wish to make a claim in respect of property or on behalf of a child then you should seek the advice of an expert family lawyer. We can find you an expert that works with you on our digital platform. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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