Every year the British Social Attitudes Report comes out, and this year’s 28th issue contains a summary of modern attitudes to marriages and family relationships. It finds that the majority of people agree that it is alright for people to live together without any intention of marriage.
That may well be the majority view of ordinary folk like you and me, but the powers that be, specifically the law makers, appear to be of a different persuasion. Perhaps they are frightened that changing the law to favour cohabiting couples would not be a vote winner.
The issue has been explored in depth on many occasions over the last decade, notably by the Law Commissions in 2007, and again in 2011, both of which recommended that cohabitants should have similar rights to spouses.
Common law marriage has not existed in England since the eighteenth century. Nevertheless, statistics show there were 5.9 million cohabiting couples in the UK in 2012, an increase of 3 million since 1996.
A survey by Resolution (the family lawyers’ national organisation) of MPs reveal that 69% of parliamentarians agree there is a mistaken belief in the existence of “common law marriage” amongst their constituents and 57% believe the law needs to be changed to provide greater protection for unmarried couples on separation.
This year the Liberal Democrats passed a motion at their annual conference which called for “the implementation without delay of proposals giving cohabiting couples fair and reasonable redress upon relationship breakdown and intestacy, based upon the proposals in the Law Commission report”. In contrast, we have the Conservatives announcing a married couple’s tax allowance, to encourage matrimony and reward those who have taken the plunge. The Prime Minster tweeted “the £1,000 marriage tax allowance will apply to straight and gay couples, as well as civil partners, love is love, commitment is commitment”.
The stark fact is that when the love and commitment fall away, unless cohabitees own a house together, the rights that you would have in the divorce courts, for property, maintenance and pension sharing, do not exist. If you have children there are provisions under the Children Act you can use, but this is cumbersome and expensive.
The moral of this tale, which has been told before, is formalise an unmarried relationship with a cohabitation agreement that can cover all the issues that could go wrong if the worst happens, and give you peace of mind to live happily ever after.
Monday, November 4th, 2013 Cohabitation