Groundswell of support building for cohabitation law reform, says Resolution

News Release

27 Oct 2014

In recent weeks there has been a groundswell of support for much needed reform of the law on how unmarried couples are treated when they separate. Senior members of the judiciary, including President of the Family Division Sir James Munby and Justice Nicholas Mostyn, have in recent weeks called for law reform on cohabitation

Resolution supports their views, which echo what we have long been calling for – bringing the law up to date with modern society by giving cohabiting couples greater legal protection if they separate.

Jo Edwards, Chair of Resolution says: “Many people don’t realise that cohabitees don’t have the same legal rights as married people, and that ‘common-law’ relationships aren’t recognised in this country. It can lead to outcomes that many would consider to be unfair when cohabiting couples separate – a partner who has lived and contributed to the relationship in the same way as a married partner can be left with nothing. “

Jo Edwards adds: “We want to see the debate shifted away from marriage. It’s not about whether people should get married or not. Cohabitees are the fastest growing type of household in the UK, with the Office of National Statistics latest data showing that 2,859,000 households are cohabiting. It’s time for the law to recognise that society has changed and afford more protection to this huge section of the British population.”

Justice Munby and Justice Mostyn’s calls for more equal treatment of all types of couples when they separate follow a landmark judgement in the Court of Appeal in the Southwell v Blackburn case, where the judge found that an unmarried partner was entitled to a pay out on the basis that she was led to believe "she would have the sort of security that a wife would have" during the relationship. This follows a recent Resolution survey of MPs, which found that almost two thirds of British MPs believe the law needs to be changed to give protection to unmarried couples if they separate.

Jo Edwards notes: “There’s a groundswell of support building for a change to cohabitation law. Resolution calls on the Government to take heed and make this necessary change, to bring the law into step with modern British society.”