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‘Common law marriage’ and cohabitation paper published

The Library of Commons has published a briefing paper relating to ‘common law marriage’ and cohabitation across England and Wales.

The paper includes statistics for the number of cohabitants in Britain and general information on how the law applies to cohabitants, as well as future reformation proposals from the Law Commission.

Although cohabitants can have legal protection in many respects, it gives no actual legal status to a couple – unlike marriage or civil partnership – and, presently, a cohabiting couple has little legal protection should they decide to separate.

In July 2007, following consultation, the Law Commission published a report titled: Cohabitation: the financial consequences of relationship breakdown, which considered the financial consequences of the ending of cohabiting relationships. The Law Commission recommended the introduction of a new statutory scheme of financial relief on separation, based on the contributions made to the relationship by the parties. The scheme would be available to eligible cohabiting couples and couples that had had a child together or who had lived together for a minimum period would be eligible. In March 2008, the Labour Government announced that it would be taking no action to implement the Law Commission’s recommendations until research on the cost and effectiveness of a similar scheme recently implemented in Scotland could be studied.

On 6 September 2011, Jonathan Djanogly, then a junior Justice Minister, announced that having carefully considered the Law Commission’s recommendations, together with the outcomes of research on the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, the then Government did not intend to reform the law relating to cohabitation in that Parliamentary term. In a separate report, published in 2011, the Law Commission recommended that some unmarried partners should have the right to inherit on each other’s death under the intestacy rules, without having to go to court. The Coalition Government did not implement this recommendation.

The full Commons Library briefing paper, ‘common law marriage’ and cohabitation is available to view online at the link below.

Link: ‘Common law marriage’ and cohabitation paper