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/ 04 Nov 2022

Government rejects call to reform law for cohabiting partners

The government has rejected almost all proposals for cohabiting law reform put forward in the Women and Equalities Committee’s recent report.

Recommended reforms for unmarried couples rejected

Liz Francis recently provided a summary on the recommended reforms for unmarried couples put forward by the Women and Equalities Committee, which highlighted the need for a revised cohabitation law to ensure that unmarried couples will receive the same (or similar) benefits and treatment as married couples and civil partners.

This week, the government has rejected the reforms stating that ‘existing work on the law of marriage and divorce must conclude before it could consider changes to law in respect of rights of cohabitants’.

The government confirmed that it has no plans to extend the inheritance tax treatment of spouses and civil partners to cohabiting partners but would keep it under review.

The common law marriage myth

Within their report, the government have partially accepted two recommendations on improved guidance and support to make cohabitants aware of their legal rights and improved support for women in religious communities, though did not feel a full public awareness campaign on these issues was necessary.

In her earlier piece, Liz Franics spoke of the many family practitioners who will have come across a client who is shocked to be advised that they are not actually married and hence have none of the claims that they had expected.

Caroline Nokes, the Women and Equalities committee chair has criticised the Government’s rejection saying it relies on ‘flawed logic’ and “risks leaving a growing number of cohabitants and children vulnerable”.

With the number of couples who have chosen cohabitation over a marriage or civil partnership on the rise, it is incredibly important that the law surrounding cohabitation is re-addressed to suit modern standards. It is therefore disappointing that the government have rejected calls for much-needed reform in this area, leaving those couples who chose not to marry or enter into a civil partnership with exceedingly limited rights on separation or the death of their partner.

If you would like more information on your associated rights, please do not hesitate to contact our family lawyers who would be happy to assist.

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