Rebecca Meehan provides insights into the implications of the UK government’s rejection of the cohabitation law reform.
It is a common misconception that the laws and protections afforded to cohabitees in England and Wales are similar or even a remote reflection of those laws which apply to married couples upon separation.
The UK government has recently rejected almost all proposals for cohabitation law reform which were put forward in the Women and Equalities Committee’s August report. The government’s rejection of the recommended reforms for cohabitation law has been met with criticism from the Women and Equalities Committee.
The Committee’s August report concluded that reform was necessary for family law in England and Wales to better protect cohabiting couples and their children from financial hardship in the event of separation.
The government’s response published on 1 November 2022, set out that the ongoing work on the law of marriage and divorce should be concluded before reformation of the law on the rights of cohabiting couples could be considered.
This is a disappointing sideways step for an ever-increasing segment of society, with cohabiting partners being the fastest growing type of family and with over 3.6 million couples choosing to cohabit in the UK.
MP Caroline Nokes, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, criticised the government’s ‘flawed logic’. “Weddings law and financial provision on divorce are wholly separate areas of family law,” she said in a statement. “There is no reason the government should not prioritise law reform for cohabiting partners alongside this. Moreover, changes to weddings and divorce law could take many years. This response effectively kicks the issue into the long grass and risks leaving a growing number of cohabitants financially vulnerable.”
The government’s full response is available here –
Despite the lack of reform, there are still ways for cohabiting couples to ensure that they and their children are protected in the event of separation so it is really important to seek legal advice if you are concerned about this. The highly experienced team at Streathers is able to provide advice in this area and assist with cohabitation agreements, property ownership agreements and wills/inheritance planning.