Despite years of campaigning by organisations and individuals, there are few laws to protect the rights of cohabitees and bring them into line with married couples and civil partners. Under current law there is no legal protection for people who live together upon separation or death of one of the partners. The Office for National Statistics said that in 2015 there were just under 3.2 million cohabiting couples in the UK. There is still a huge public misconception that a ‘common law marriage’ affords them rights – Opinium Research’s study found that almost half of UK citizens aged 18-34 believe that cohabiting couples have the same legal rights as married couples.
"The law does not currently recognise cohabitants, despite many being in long term relationships and/or having children together. However, more protection is available where children are involved. This lack of legal protection often results in an unfair outcome," explains Head of Family team Andrew Stynes.
A new Bill which had its first reading in June 2015 (although a second reading is not yet scheduled) will seek to modernise the law governing cohabitees. Cohabitants must have lived together as a couple for a continuous period of three years and have no children in order to be eligible for legal protection. If they meet the eligibility criteria they will be able to apply for a financial settlement order. The court will be able to make various orders including a lump sum payment, transfer or sale of property and a pension sharing order. The Bill will also provide cohabitants with an insurable interest in each other’s lives and will enable the surviving cohabitant to make a claim on the death of the other partner.
Our Family Team, based in Christchurch, also cover Bournemouth, Poole and the New Forest. For a free initial chat, please call 01202 499255 and Andrew or a member of the team will be happy to discuss any questions that you may have.