Liberal Democrats vote for cohabitation rights

Cohabitation|Family Law|News|September 18th 2013

The Liberal Democrats have passed a motion calling for greater financial and property rights for unmarried couples when their relationship ends.

The motion also calls for reform of the law on intestacy (death without a valid will), so that the surviving partner in a cohabiting couple could benefit from the estate of the deceased person under certain conditions.

Members at the party’s conference in Glasgow adopted the motion moved by life peer Lord Marks QC.

He told delegates:

“More and more people choose to live together before  – or instead of – getting married or entering into a civil partnership. In 1996 there were about less than 3 million people cohabiting in the UK.  By 2012 that figure had almost doubled to 5.9 million. More cohabiting couples – about 38 per cent of them –  are having children. Yet there is still widespread confusion about their position in law.  In a British Social Attitudes survey in 2006 survey no less than 58 per cent of respondents thought that cohabiting couples who split up were probably or definitely in the same position as married  couples. The myth of the common law marriage is widespread.  But it is just that  – a myth  – without any foundation in law.”

The proposal claimed:

“The present lack of provision protecting cohabiting couples upon relationship breakdown is unsatisfactory and unfair to them and their children.”

The newly passed motion calls for: “the implementation without delay of proposals giving cohabiting couples fair and reasonable redress upon relationship breakdown and upon intestacy, based upon the proposals made in the Law Commission‘s 2007 and 2011 reports.”

The Law Commission’s 2007 report Cohabitation: the Financial Consequences of Relationship Breakdown proposed new legal rights for people in cohabiting relationships if they had living together a certain period or had children.

It was rejected by the then Labour government in 2009.

The 2011 report, Intestacy and Family Provision Claims on Death, made similar financial proposals for people whose cohabiting partner had died.

The motion is now official Liberal Democrat policy.

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  1. Dave says:

    The reason that 58% in the social attitudes survey were wrong is the same reason that over half the British population are on tax credits i.e. they are not very clever.

  2. Stephanie Bamberger says:

    There is a well-known saying – “ignorance is no excuse before the law”. I do not understand why the Lib Dems want to essentially create greater burdens on the court system by allowing people who can’t be bothered to simply get married to make claims on property after they split up. How hard is it to get married in the UK? I must be missing something there since it’s about a 1 hour process in California including the actual ceremony at the Clerk-Recorder’s office. I had a former co-worker get married on her lunch hour (she had no interest in the fluffy wedding stuff or the family drama).

  3. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    Politics aside, this is the right because more and more couples are opting for cohabitation over traditional marriage.

  4. Stitchedup says:

    Hold on a minute, many people consciously decide not to marry in order to protect their assets. Will people that want to try living together to test a relationship now be expected to have something equivalent to a prenup?

  5. Luke says:

    “Politics aside, this is the right because more and more couples are opting for cohabitation over traditional marriage.”

    I don’t agree Matt, one of the main reasons people are cohabiting instead of marrying is because of the legal and financial entanglements involved in marriage.

    If cohabitees want closer legal status they can draw up a contract – there is nothing to stop them doing so.

    Your solution is to say they are all too stupid to think for themselves and so force them under the control of the courts with no contract signed at all !

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