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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

Government urged to reconsider delay on protections for cohabiting partners

Government urged to reconsider delay on protections for cohabiting partners


The Committee asks that the government acts now to provide legal protections

The Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Caroline Nokes, has written to Lord Christopher Bellamy KC, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice on 14 June, urging the government to reconsider its decision to delay cohabitation law reform. In its response to the Committee’s report on the rights of cohabiting partners, which was published on 4 August 2022 and called for improved protections for cohabitants in the event of relationship breakdown or the death of a partner, the government stated that increased legal protections for cohabiting partners would not be considered until existing reviews on the law for financial provision on divorce and weddings law reform have concluded.

The letter argues that any changes to the rights of cohabiting partners could take 'many years' if the government waits to conclude the existing reviews before addressing the matter. Nokes explains that the Women and Equalities Committee ‘see no reason why reviewing divorce and weddings law should prevent the Government from pursuing a separate, bespoke regime for cohabitants now.’ The letter explicitly ask that the government reconsider its response and acts to provide basic legal protections for millions of cohabiting partners.

The letter also requests clarity on the following: when the government will review the information currently available to the public on the legal rights afforded to spouses, civil partners, and cohabiting couples following relationship breakdown and death of a partner; what further action the government will take to raise awareness on the common law marriage myth that people who cohabit have equal rights to those who are married; and what the timelines are for responding to the Law Commission’s weddings law recommendations and implementing the proposed changes to the law?

According to the House of Commons press release, the Committee has also written to the Pensions Minister Laura Trott to ask for an update on creating clearer guidelines on how pension schemes should treat surviving cohabiting partners.

Commenting on the development in the accompying press release, Women and Equalities Committee Chair, Caroline Nokes, said: “Cohabitating partners are the fastest growing family type. The Government’s position that cohabitation law reform must wait until work on divorce and weddings law had finished is untenable and means basic legal protections for cohabiting partners and their children could be many years away. We urge the Government to reconsider.”