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MEPs say unmarried multinational partners should have same property rights as married ones

Unmarried couples from different EU member states should be entitled to decide which country’s property law will apply if their relationship ends or one partner dies, MEPs have declared.

European MPs voted by a large majority to amend draft legislation which would give married couples that right, extending the provision to all couples in ‘registered partnerships, regardless of gender. It would affect couples of different nationalities, expatriate couples and couples who own assets in different countries within the EU, Family Law Week reports.

MEP Alexandra Thein said:

“International couples in registered partnerships face the same problems as married ones and so should have the same right to choose which country’s law applies to their property. The Commission proposal would have treated them unequally and I am very pleased that we have removed this inequity.”

Couples would only be able to choose from countries they have a close connection to – for example, their countries of origin or those where they are ‘habitually resident’ (usually live). The countries must also legally recognise their partnerships.

However, the new law will not apply to United Kingdom, Denmark, or Ireland, as these countries have opted out of the applicable EU treaties.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    We have a similar problem with regard this issue in the United States except that the question is which ‘state’s’ property laws ought to apply??

  2. Paul says:

    They’ll be bringing another law in soon which says a woman only has to look at a man once and half the house is hers.

  3. LMT says:

    Why can’t this law be extended to co-habiting couples in the UK.
    For a mother of four young children with an Australian ex partner who was controlling and inflicted domestic violence (emotional, physical and financial) upon me during our 12 year relationship – The current law ensures that I have walked away from a 12 year relationship (like a marriage) with absolutely nothing for my own future – just the clothes in my closet! The law has also ensured that this man who I separated from due to his alcohol related behaviour towards myself and the children now has the ability to harass me for the next 13 years because he has the financial control over property and maintenance and he is clearly using that position with relish which has resulted in me having to report him to the police due to continual harrassment.
    When I complete my job of raising our four beautiful children (when they become 18 – I have sole residency), I will be penniless and homeless.
    It all seems wholly unfair. GOing through the courts my solicitors reiterated the unfairness of the situation.
    I have no ability to earn any amount of income for my own future (due to giving up my career to raise a family) as I have the limitations of no family help close by and because as soon as I do earn anything it would go into reducing his monthly CSA maintenance payments I am no better off for any part time work I might be able to fit in around the family responsibilities.
    Therefore my multimillion pound ex walks away with everything and I walk away with nothing and will most likely struggle at the age of 55 to find a job or be able to pay for a mortgage for my own home at all!
    The irony is that if we had separated in his home country (Australia – where he wants to live) and that of our first two children I would have been treated as equally as a married woman within the context of financial rights.
    The UK law surely has to reform its status in regard to cohabitees and acknowledge that the pattern of relationships has evolved!

  4. Luke says:

    “The UK law surely has to reform its status in regard to cohabitees and acknowledge that the pattern of relationships has evolved!”

    No, it doesn’t (although unfortunately I think it will), I’m REALLY sorry that you are in this situation but many people cohabit for a reason – they don’t want the legal entanglements of marriage and they don’t want to be at the whim of a Judge who they know nothing about.

    Frankly as a man there is no rational way that I would get married due to the risk of being asset stripped of most of what I have earned in my life – which is what happens in divorce court. That doesn’t mean I think you should have got nothing, but when you are in a relationship you MUST discuss this stuff ! How can one not ?

    The answer is to either get married or write a cohabitation agreement and sign it.

    Your position is extremely regrettable but the law is clear, and it is not right for the courts to force people to be legally entangled against their will and asset strip an individual when no contract has been signed.

    I would recommend you study part-time in a STEM subject as this will help you get a job in the future. I’m sorry that he has not been gracious enough to help you out.

  5. Stitchedup says:


    I tagree with Luke, people tend to not get married for a reason. Throughout our relationship my ex suffered EXTREME mood swings, she would be aggressive and occasionally violent, always threatening to end the relationship if she couldn’t have her own way. I had to put with constant negativity/criticism of myself, family and friends. She would often refuse to socialise with them and expected me to become some sort of recluse.

    I’ve been on the receiving end of the cohabitating laws, my ex allowed her head to be turned and left me after a period of unemployment. She managed to do very nicely out of it claiming constructive trusts. I’m the one struggling with work, in and out of employment having to accept temporary/fixed term contracts earning a fraction of what I use to earn before I gave up a good career in the silicon chip industry to allow my ex to continue with hers. I put at least 80% in to the house, having owned property and investments before I met her. She manage to get 50% of everything, endowments included, and I had to pick up over £12K in costs.

    I don’t agree with Luke on one point however. Unfortunately, having STEM qualifications doesn’t guarantee stable employment. I’m a professional Engineer and certified project manager with a BEng Hons in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from a leading university. However. I graduated in 1985 and now find it difficult to find work due to my age and also the ridiculous way in which Engineering jobs are specified these days. You have to be an exact match with 5-10 years in the same industry, there appears to be no such thing as transferable skills in Engineering and companies then wonder why they can’t find the Engineers! It’s due to lazy recruitment practices and companies not being prepared to invest a little time and money . I’ll get off my soap box and stop my rant there!

    Good luck for the future LMT.

  6. Luke says:

    Stitchedup, obviously I don’t know your situation and I appreciate that nothing guarantees a job – you are right that it can be very difficult.
    My point was that STEM gives you a much better chance. Throughout the recession (and up until recently) I was a Project Manager trying to hire top quality DBA consultants on very good money – they had all the power because the shortage is ridiculous – very view of the ones we eventually would hire were British because they just don’t exist !

    Everybody is wanting to do the arts or humanities but as a rule jobs in those fields are less well paid and much harder to find.

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