News Brief: Rights for cohabitees, working with abusive fathers ...and a little light relief

Sir Nicholas Wall remains in the news, this time giving an interview to The Times in which he states that he is in favour of cohabitees having property rights. I can't link to the article as it is, of course, behind the great paywall of Murdoch. However, the BBC quotes the President as saying: "Women cohabitees, in particular, are severely disadvantaged by being unable to claim maintenance and having their property rights determined by the conventional laws of trusts." As I'm sure I've said here before, any family lawyer who has been practising for a while will have come across this situation. Unfortunately, reform in this area does not seem to be included in the numerous changes to family law that are currently in the pipeline, which is strange seeing as it was recommended by the Law Commission in 2007.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports upon the publication today of a study into children's services involvement with domestically abusive fathers. Working with risky fathers found that: "Almost 90% of men guilty of domestic violence remain in close contact with their children without supervision." Cathy Ashley, chief executive of the Family Rights Group, is quoted as saying: "Really scary, violent fathers are routinely falling through the gaps in children's services, putting children who have already been raised in homes where domestic violence was present, at risk of further physical and emotional harm."

All of which is pretty depressing. For a little light relief I recommend that you head over to Confessions of a divorce lawyer in the Law Society Gazette today, in which James Morton recalls "the days when fashionable barristers could appear in lists of those about whom the readers of popular newspapers would like to read". I particularly liked the tale of the goings-on on the stopping train from Sutton Coldfield to Birmingham.

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UPDATE: I have since read in The Telegraph that a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice has said that the Coalition Government will make an announcement “in due course” regarding cohabitees’ rights.

Further, the article in The Times can now be found here.


  1. There are rights avaliable for unmarried couples it's called getting married. If they want the rights they need to sign up for the institution, simples.

  2. Following on from James Morton's article: are there any autobiographies and biographies on Family Law practitioners that you would recommend (legal biography is an interest of mine and there is no comprehensive bibliography of that subject)?

  3. Sorry, but I'm not aware of any.

  4. mr keenan is presumably a follower of the archbishop of canterbury in that he feels unmarried couples are destroying society. as it's a society full of married couples divorcing in acrimony, i say, sooner the better. go the unmarrieds!

  5. While I don't agree with Mr Keenan, I think an assumption is being made about his's a known contrary view,and not one informed by any religious position, that the option does exist of getting yourselves into the more flexible ancillary relief arena.
    However that depends on an awful lot of hindsight,and injustices happen NOW.
    I think there is still plenty of acrimony to be had, married or not,on relationship breakdown.
    And as someone trying to advise clients in the cohabitation minefield, I hate the "all or nothing" results that can arise.

  6. not worried about mark keenan's motives and i'm not making any comments about his values - what i am saying is i think he is wrong, just as rowan williams was wrong. it is not good enough to say 'if you choose not to be married you have to accept your position will be worse as a result'. it's nonsensical in treating some people less well than others without benefitting anyone. what is the logic in denying equal treatment to these two sets of people based on what you think should be their domestic arrangement? it smacks of the stigmatising of divorce - a stance most people have now abandonned.

  7. For once, I agree with SW.

    Marriage is dead, the feminists killed it.

    Now, the right questions are being asked - e.g. by Wall, but I am not sure of the answer. The specific question is, what will replace it? I don't think marriage lite co-habitation law is a good idea as will mean fewer people will live together.

    I think the solution is to do nothing (it is changing laws which got us into this mess) and see what happens. Things aren't that bad, I quite like the UK at the moment.

    Speaking as someone who is divorced and under pressure to remarry. I think I'm ok not doing that thank you. I'm with the feminists on that, an outdated institution.

    Familys and Clans are the future. Like in SF. Seems men and women can't be relied upon to forge lifelong relationships and the court and law should be avoided like the plague - been there, and it was horrible, don't want my kids to go through that (Divorce) or anything like it.


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