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Plans for reform of cohabitees property rights put on hold

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Proposals put forward by the Law Commission for a change in the law on rights for separating cohabitees, have been postponed by the government.

The Law Commission was asked by Government in 2005 to examine the current law that applies to cohabitants when their relationship breaks down. After a two year consultation the Commission found that existing law was ‘uncertain and difficult to apply’ and led to ‘unjust results’ as it was not designed for unmarried couples.

Head of the Family Team at Frettens, Julie-Ann Harris, explains ”The Law Commission’s project ‘Cohabitation: the financial consequences of relationship breakdown’ looked at people who are living together as a couple but who are not married to each other and have not formed a civil partnership. Their report was published to Parliament in July 2007 and contained recommendations regarding cohabitants’ property and finances should they separate. They concluded that cohabitants should not be given the same rights as married couples and civil partners, but recommended a ‘new scheme of financial remedies’. Couples who had a child together or who had lived together for a period of time (to be decided) would be able to apply for this scheme. Couples could opt out of the scheme if they wished to do so.”

Both the previous and the coalition government wanted to examine the results of a similar scheme in Scotland before beginning reform. Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly has said that the findings “did not provide them with a sufficient basis for a change in the law”.

Professor Elizabeth Cooke, Head of the Law Commission, said in her statement that she hoped implementation of the recommendations would not be delayed beyond the “early days of the next Parliament, in view of the hardship and injustice caused by the current law”.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss your situation, please get in touch with Julie-Ann or a member of her team on 01202 499255.

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