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Cohabitation laws are ‘out of touch’

Cohabiting couple families are the fastest growing family type in the UK

29 January 2015

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Cohabiting couple families grew by 30 per cent between 2004 and 2014, and legally, they continue to be the least well protected family type.

They do not share any of the legal protection given to couples in a civil partnership or a marriage.

Alison Hawes, a partner in the family and divorce law team at Irwin Mitchell, said: "The idea of a common law partner whereby people simply living together have the same rights as married couples is currently a myth and it is about time the out of touch cohabitation laws were brought up to date.

"Many people in this situation don't know that they are not well protected in the event of a separation and we have seen examples of people literally being left out in the cold because they have been evicted from a house they have shared with their partner for years."

Statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that there are now three million opposite sex cohabiting couple families and 84,000 same sex cohabiting couple families in the UK in 2014.

This accounts for 16.4 per cent of all families in the UK.

Cohabitation Rights Bill

The Cohabitation Rights Bill 2014-15 was introduced in June 2014 and had its second reading last December.

A date is yet to be set for the Bill to enter into the committee stage and is unlikely to be passed until well into the next parliament.

Hawes added: "The cohabitation rights bill has been in the early stages of passing through parliament for some time now, but we believe it needs to become more of a priority following May's general election.

"Legislation in this area has not moved with the times and this means couples who live together have very few rights in law, in the event of relationship breakdown."

Cohabitation agreement

In the meantime, Hawes suggests that cohabiting couples make a cohabitation agreement which works in a similar way to a prenuptial agreement.

She explained: "The only way for couples to protect themselves and their assets in the event of a split is to prepare a cohabitation agreement or property ownership document with advice from legal specialists from the outset.

"It is very similar to a pre-nuptial agreement, and enables both parties to ensure they state clearly how their assets should be divided in the event that their relationship does sadly come to an end."


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