As pressure grows for greater legal protection for cohabiting couples, so does the evidence that many cohabitees still mistakenly believe they have the same rights as married couples.
A recent survey by a major chain of solicitors found that:
Fastest growing family type
According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 3.3 million cohabiting couples in 2016, the fastest growing family type in the UK.
Yet whilst it is clear that society is changing, the legal system is not keeping up and sadly, this is frequently causing unfair results when couples part.
Call for safety net legislation
Nigel Shepherd, chair of the family law group Resolution, has said: “These 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.”
While there are plans afoot to remedy the situation, progress is incredibly slow.
The Cohabitation Rights Bill had its second reading in 2014 but got no further. A similar bill was introduced to the House of Lords in June 2016 and a House of Commons briefing paper was published in March to summarise the position in England and Wales for MPs’ reference.
The Family Justice Bill – which includes cohabitation law reform – is now on parliament’s agenda, introduced by Conservative MP, Suella Fernandes. The bill, which has cross party support, had its first reading in March and is due to have its second reading next week (May 12).