30 November 2023

Nearly half of unmarried couples do not know that their rights are very limited should they split up. Family Law Group Resolution have published a blueprint for the future of family justice, focusing on this growing group of people. Cohabiting couple families accounted for 1 in 5 families in 2022 in the UK.

Resolution conducted a poll of 551 cohabitates and half did not plan to get married and a third did not believe in marriage.

So where does that leave them in the event of a breakup? The current answer is ‘not in a good position’.

A survey of Resolution Members revealed that 85% strongly agreed that the law relating to cohabiting partners on separation needs to be reformed. If one party has been the stay-at-home parent whilst the other is the breadwinner, why should it be right that the main carer leave the relationship with potentially far less than the breadwinner? was one comment.

Cohabiting couples have little legal protection when they separate with no safety net legislation in place. The law treats them as two unconnected individuals with no claims against each other arising from their relationship. For instance if a property is in one person’s name the other does not have an automatic claim on it. There is no ability to claim maintenance to help adjust to the loss of financial support that can follow separation.

Resolution have produced a Vision for Family Justice that includes:

  1. A legal framework of rights and responsibilities when unmarried couples split up to provide for a fair outcome.
  2. The ability to apply for financial remedy orders (subject to meeting eligibility criteria to show a committed relationship) along the lines that are available to married couples, or civil partners.
  3. The framework under the Children Act to be reviewed so that the court can order both parents to contribute to the costs of childcare.
  4. In the event of the death of a cohabiting partner their partner should have an entitlement under the rules of intestacy and cohabitants should be treated the same way as married couples and civil partners for tax purposes on death.

The proposals are wide ranging and whilst there are somethings that can be done by cohabiting couples, such as having Wills in place, ensuring property is in joint names and having a living together agreement in place the law is currently such that, as Jo Edwards, Chair of Resolution says, “It’s clear that reforming the law around cohabitants rights on separation to ensure they have proper legal protections is both vital and widely supported.”

Resolution is a membership body representing 6,500 family justice professionals, all promoting a non-confrontational approach to resolving family issues and campaigning for better laws and better support for families and children undergoing family changes and the family team at Battens are proud to be members.

For more information, contact Lesley Powell on 01935 846089

View our prenuptial and cohabitation agreement services here