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Cohabiting Rights

Our team of Family Law Solicitors examines the progression of the Cohabitation Rights Bill, which had its second reading in the House of Lords on 12 December 2014, and its impact should this proceed. 

It is the reality of modern society that an increasing number of couples are living together in Britain than are committing to marriage. The Law for cohabiting couples dates back a few centuries, is considered to be outdated and manifestly unfair. The reality for those couples that come to the court at this stage is that a couple who live together for 20 years will have an outcome where one partner may end up with no propriety ownership despite the commitment and endeavours during that lengthy relationship, whether raising children or providing financial input. By way of stark contrast, a couple who have been married for 20 years will experience the discretionary powers of the court in divorce, which enables the court to take a broad-brush approach for fairness and allowing for housing needs and various other important criteria and where the starting point is one of equality of outcome of the assets generated within the relationship. 

The Cohabitation Law which is now proposed aims to create a system that is generally fair for cohabiting couples, and it is proposed that the court would have powers to make the same type of Orders that they currently do on divorce, but on a very different basis. Whilst it will not include a presumption of equal sharing of assets, the court it is suggested should be required to make an Order to reflect the actual contributions made by each party and to compensate them for that contribution.   

The Bill has been passed through to Committee stage and so this is thought to be reviewed in 2015. 

Whilst we await this progression, it is still important for cohabiting couples that they ensure that they receive appropriate advice at the time of any significant transaction within their relationship, for example the purchase of property and in respect of other aspects that can improve an individual’s position along the way.   

It is too often the case that couples are forced to engage in court proceedings in relation disputes over property that have been purchased with no doubt a common intention to share the property but in circumstances in which the property is placed in the sole legal ownership of one of the couple. The other party is clearly disadvantaged, and the strict appliance of Trust Rules now requires a high hurdle to be surmounted to recover any financial interest, and these proceedings are complex, and should only be embarked on with specialist legal advice.   

If you wish to have any more advice about the current status of the Law for cohabiting couples and how property ownership will affect matters, then please contact our family law team on 0845 894 1622 or email

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