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Saying ‘I Don’t’

Cohabitation verses marriage – do you know what the big deal is?

Well after reading this article you should be more aware of your situation in the eyes of the law and what it really means not to be married.

There were 3 million cohabiting couples living in the UK in 2014 and this statistic is rapidly growing. Many of these people in cohabitating relationships believe that they have an automatic right to make a financial claim against their ex-partner if their relationship breaks down. In fact there are no current laws in place to protect unmarried couples. The question is, should these 3 million (and counting) couples be afforded some form of protection and more importantly how?

There are two arguments, firstly that if couples wish to formalise and legalise their relationship to attract the benefits of married couples, they should quite simply, marry. However this does not entirely fit with today’s social norms to reflect the standards of a modern society. Shouldn’t the law simply catch up with the 3 million couples in the UK, isn’t that what the law is supposed to do, otherwise we would continue to live in a society where there are no such rights whatsoever afforded to same sex couples.

Whatever your personal stance on the matter, there is no doubt that the current legal system is unjust towards unmarried couples upon their separation or upon the death of their significant other. However, is it 

right to place financial obligations upon couples, who for whatever reason, have chosen not to be part of a union recognised in the eyes of the law? Is the answer information rather than legislation?

Unlike divorce there are no automatic rights to claim against assets held in the sole name of a former partner. This difficulty results in unpleasant consequences  for unmarried couples as they must rely on complex property and trusts law when their relationship breaks down. Whilst this is not only expensive and extremely lengthy, it can add to the existing stress of a relationship breakdown. 

Many believe that this is profusely unfair and as such The Cohabitation Rights Bill has been introduced to establish rights and responsibilities as well as essential protections for cohabitees, similar to what is already available to married couples. There are however, some conditions imposed by the proposed legislation which include qualifying contributions of each party, the length of the relationship and whether the parties have children together. Further, under this proposed legislation couples will be automatically opted in and if they choose to not take part in the paperwork to benefit from similar rights and responsibilities that come with being a spouse, they can expressly opt out.

If you are concerned about your legal rights as a cohabitee, contact Pinder Reaux & Associates today on 0208 252 7373 for a consultation with one of our family solicitors who will discuss your matter in detail with you.


Simone Barton

Trainee Solicitor