Resolution calls for cohabitation law

Cohabitation|October 28th 2014

Family law organisation Resolution has called for the introduction of new legislation for cohabitees.

Couples who live together without marrying should be new rights over property and assets if their relationship ends, the organisation declared. Currently only married couples have an automatic right to financial protection in the event of divorce.

Resolution added its voice to recent declarations by senior judicial figures.

Delivering the Michael Farmer Memorial Lecture earlier this month, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, declared that:

“If a marriage is terminated by divorce the court has power to redistribute the matrimonial assets between the spouses. There is no such relief for cohabitants when their relationship breaks down, however long the relationship has lasted. This is an injustice which has been recognised as long as I have been in the law. Reform is desperately needed”.

And in a separate speech given just two days before, High Court judge Mr Justice Mostyn bluntly stated:

“I…bridle at the implication that in some way a marriage is a better form of relationship than a non-marital one. It is not the role of the state (in my humble opinion) to go round telling people how they should form their relationships.”

According to Resolution chair Jo Edwards, the debate should move on from whether or not a couple chooses to marry.

“It’s not about whether people should get married or not…It’s time for the law to recognise that society has changed and afford more protection to this huge section of the British population.”

Cohabitation is the fastest-growing type of household in the UK, she noted.

Although England currently lacks any legal protection for cohabitants’ property rights, the Family Law (Scotland) Act has offered some limited protection to cohabitants north of the border for more than eight years.

Meanwhile, in a precedent-setting English case also reported this month, a man who cohabited with a woman for 12 years was ordered to pay her £28,500 when the relationship ended, on the basis of promises he was reported to have made to her. The judge said the man was acting “unconscionably” and ordered him to pay her enough to set up a similar home to the one she had been living in when they met.

Resolution represents family lawyers and other professionals across England and Wales interested in promoting a “non-confrontational” approach to family law.

Author: Stowe Family Law

Comments(10)

  1. Andrew says:

    “It is not the role of the state to go round telling people how they should form their relationships.”

    Agreed.

    Nor is it the role of the state to pretend people have formed a relationship in one way when they have chosen to form it in another.

  2. Nordic says:

    The very last thing we need is a further expansion of the lawless mess that passes for financial relief proceedings in this jurisdiction. This mess does not offer married couples financial protection on divorce. On the contrary, it exposes them to financial exploitation by a family law industry which, under the current “law”, has an open field to create conflicts between the parties.
    .
    Whatt cohabitants need is access to sign a legally binding cohabitant agreement which details their agreement as to asset division. What married couples need is a legally binding regime for matrimonial assets which allows them to understand what they commit to when marrying in the knowledge it will be upheld should they divorce. We should treat people as adults (regardless of gender).
    .
    Rather than seeking to expand his empire, the president should focus on desperately needed root and branch reform of the domain for which he already is responsible. So should Resolution, whose reform and policy proposals always seem to coincide with the industry’s, rather families, financial interest.

  3. Luke says:

    I think Andrew and Nordic make good points and are right, but I want to comment on another couple of points in this article that made me quite annoyed to be honest:
    .
    ===============================================================
    “It’s not about whether people should get married or not…It’s time for the law to recognise that society has changed and afford more protection to this huge section of the British population.”
    ===============================================================
    .
    NO, that is just misleading ‘spin’ and we hear it over and over again.
    It gives “more protection” to one party, in that they could use the law to take assets – but the person they are forcibly removing the assets from is the other party – the current owner, who has never signed their rights away and effectively gets “less protection”.
    .
    Of course family lawyers will benefit because they will earn money from the couple during such asset stripping – and guess what Jo Edwards is ? Yup, a family lawyer.
    I don’t think I have ever seen a vociferous campaign by the legal system as a whole (I’m not talking about individual lawyers) for any proposed law that would mean they get less money – I wonder why that is ? 🙂
    .
    .
    ===============================================================
    Meanwhile, in a precedent-setting English case also reported this month, a man who cohabited with a woman for 12 years was ordered to pay her £28,500 when the relationship ended, on the basis of promises he was reported to have made to her. The judge said the man was acting “unconscionably” and ordered him to pay her enough to set up a similar home to the one she had been living in when they met.
    ===============================================================
    .
    Again, this is misleading, it suggests that he was trying to do her out of something – there is no evidence that she put money into the property they were living in, or that he made any promise that he would carry her for the rest of her days.
    He paid in for children that are not his for 12 years, he paid for her university education to better her career, the children’s university education (they are now adults), accommodation whilst the children were at University and he bought her a car.
    I find the judge’s accusations against his character an absolute disgrace and the ruling unreasonable.
    .
    The woman got £28,500 out of him, the lawyers got £50,000 out of him in costs – so she came second and he came last in this particular charade.

  4. Jane says:

    Agree with the above. And what about the greedy parasitic x wife – now living with another man and still receiving maintenance from her first husband? I say ‘wife’ as it usually – but not always – is.She goes on to claim from her new meal ticket when that goes pear shaped? And then on to find another easy source of income? The whole situation – and system – is a disgrace. We fought for equality – what you don’t put in you shouldn’t take out. Everyone is in charge of their own destiny. Contracts should be legally made both for marriage and cohabition. Staying at home and looking after children should not mean an income for life or a huge payout. Millions of women work hard, have careers, and raise a family, so is totally unfair on them. It goes without saying that the childrens needs should be met .But people that don’t choose to support themselves should do so at their own risk and not be rewarded for hiding behind the archaic laws of this country.

    • Nordic says:

      Jane. Well said. The gender bias in the current family law system promotes and maintains men and women in 1950 stereotype role modelis. As such, it oppresses and discriminates not just against men but equally against modern women who do not wish to be in a constant state of financial dependency.

    • Stitchedup says:

      Well said Jane, I think you’ll find most men in favour of equality. Unfortunately, modern day feminist political organisations do not promote equality, they want total feminist control and domination in family life, the work place and indeed our judicial system. They scream misogyny but are themselves antifamily, misandric, sexist, organisations to the core. Unfortunately these feminist political organisations have huge lobbying power, just look at the recent Tee shirt incident, and many receive public funding.

  5. Stella says:

    I am in total favour of the new Cohabitaion Act…as a 47 year old woman who has been with my partner for 26 years and raised two children together with being the main earner, I welcome the opportunity for the arrangement to hold some legal significance.
    It is correct my partner had a house when we met and then we moved to a bigger property to bring up our family, the mortgage is paid in full …I pay 1000 per month to the household, undertake the main bulk of the food shopping and have paid the accommodation rents for both our children to get through university – the time is long overdue to rectify this matter and preventIin the main women from adverse risk financially – I do not wish to marry in order to accrue financial benefits this promotes a self serving arrangement and I do not wish for this.
    But I also do not wish to find myself in financial difficulty should my partner either choose to endthe rerelationship or pass away…

  6. Luke says:

    “But I also do not wish to find myself in financial difficulty should my partner either choose to endthe rerelationship or pass away…”
    ==================================================
    .
    Well there has never been anything to stop you doing that Stella, you could have created a legal contract stipulating the division of assets and you have been able to do that at any time.
    .
    Trying to force other people to be asset stripped on no contract at all because you didn’t want to get married and didn’t bother with such a contract just creates bad and unfair law.

    • Stella says:

      My understanding of the cohabitation bill proposal is not to “asset strip” either party but to create an equitable resolution for each individual that is not soley based on property law but gives credence also to family law which is highly integral to the arrangement.

      Many people embarked on relationships based on mutual trust and naivety only to find themselves unfairly positioned in the eyes of the law further down the line.
      The number of cohabitees is increasing and England is well behind the times in this respect, such an act will support all concerned and it can only be for the best.

      • Luke says:

        It won’t be “for the best” and it won’t be fair, lots of people deliberately cohabit because they don’t want the legal obligations that marriage has – you will be forcing them under the power of the courts and the courts WILL asset strip one party for the benefit of the other, with no contract whatsoever.
        .
        It’s basically just theft.

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