Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cohabitation Report published

Law CommissionAs anticipated, the Law Commission today published its report Cohabitation: The Financial Consequences of Relationship Breakdown. The Report rejects calls that cohabitants should be given the same rights as married couples and instead "recommends the introduction of a new scheme of financial remedies which would lead to fairer outcomes on separation for cohabitants and their families". Key features of the scheme are that those remedies should only be available where:

  • the couple had had a child together or had lived together for a specified number of years (the Report does not make a specific recommendation as to what the minimum duration requirement should be, but suggests that a period of between two and five years would be appropriate);
  • the couple had not agreed to disapply the scheme by entering into an 'opt-out' agreement; and
  • the applicant had made qualifying contributions to the relationship "giving rise to certain enduring consequences at the point of separation" - so that, unlike the position on divorce, duration of the relationship or the needs of the parties would have no bearing on entitlement. Instead, "the applicant would have to show that the respondent retained a benefit, or that the applicant had a continuing economic disadvantage, as a result of contributions made to the relationship". The court would then have a discretion to "grant such financial relief as might be appropriate", having regard to these matters.
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