InsightsInsight - Family and Divorce - POSTED: November 14 2016
Resolution speaks out about the law on cohabitation
Many people still believe that as “common law” partners they have the same legal rights as married couples. This is a legal myth and many cohabiting couples find themselves in difficulties when they separate.
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The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released figures which demonstrate that there are now 3.3 million cohabiting families in the UK. Indeed, the figures show that cohabitation has been the fastest growing family type over the last twenty years. Despite this, very little has changed from a legal perspective to provide greater protection to these families, particularly upon separation.
The Resolution Chair, Nigel Shepherd, has said:
“These ONS figures are further proof that more and more couples are choosing to live together and bring up their children without marrying. Sadly, some of those relationships will come to an end at some point. This is a feature of our modern society that is here to stay and, unfortunately, current cohabitation law is failing to provide them with the rights some of them mistakenly think they have.
“Rather than ignoring these 3.3million families, our lawmakers must respond and introduce safety net legislation that will provide legal protection and fair outcomes at the time of a couple’s separation.”
Unfortunately, the sentiments expressed by Mr Shepherd are far from innovative, with Resolution and other interested bodies having called for a change in the law for a number of years. However, unless and until the law is changed, cohabiting couples will have to rely on the strict laws of trusts and property, and not matrimonial law, to determine their rightful entitlement upon separation. This could mean that a party who has lived in their partner’s house for a number of years, perhaps even decades, may have no legal entitlement to any financial provision upon separation (whether by way of lump sum payment of monthly maintenance), even if they have raised a family together. This, therefore, makes it all the more important that separating couples seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible.
Rhia and her colleagues in the family team at Brachers are on hand to provide such specialist advice and ensure that you receive your rightful entitlement upon separation.
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