Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cohabitants should have scope for financial redress in the event of a relationship breakdown, warns Law Society

Law Society press release:

Cohabitants should have scope for financial redress in the event of a relationship breakdown, warns Law Society

Commenting on the government’s refusal to enact legislation on cohabitation in this Parliament the Law Society says reform of cohabitation law is badly needed as cohabitants should have proper redress in the event of a relationship breakdown, when their financial and property rights need to be adjusted.

The Law Society has long supported reform of cohabitation law and it supports the Law Commission’s proposals for legislation in this area.

Responding this week to the Government’s refusal to enact legislation Law Society President John Wotton said this area of law is in need of reform to provide a more rational and structured system than exists at present.

“The Law Society believes that the current legislative framework for cohabitation is unnecessarily expensive, and that reforms to it could reduce costs, free up time for the Courts, and provide separating couples with a more satisfactory experience.

“The government’s response is that the family justice system is already under review. However the Family Justice Review specifically excludes ancillary relief; the financial proceedings surrounding the separation of a couple, let alone cohabitation law, which remains dealt with under civil - not family – rules.

“One of the roles of the law is to protect the vulnerable. The law that currently exists for cohabitants is disjointed and grossly inadequate. Solicitors practising family law regularly see injustice when cohabiting couples' relationships break down. Unmarried couples who are living together and those who are still married, but are now living with a new partner, need to know where they stand in the event of a break-up.”


  1. The problem at the moment is not that they don't know where they stand - any suitable lawyer can tell them this very quickly. If they just want to know where they stand, ask a lawyer! The problem is what they discover once they know where they stand. The law as it relates to cohabitants is not disjointed - it's perfectly coherent in its own way. What the Law Society should have the confidence to say, without hiding behind anything else, is that the law as it stands is unjust and needs to change for that reason alone.

    Whether others agree is open to debate but how about people having the courage of their convictions?

  2. well it certainly isn't clear where they stand in most cases when they may or may not be part owners of the property they inhabit.

  3. In most cases it's very clear indeed - the legal title to property is decisive. In a very few cases, the position is unclear and often complicated. For every time I advise that there is a potential claim, there are many more times when I have had to break the news that there's no claim available. The reality is that the proposed changes are directed at the great majority, not the tiny majority. The case for change is driven by the perceived injustice to the majority - people leaving a long relationship with next to nothing. The Law Society should have the courage of its convictions and say as much.

  4. 'the legal title to property is decisive'

    ok; who's going to tell the supreme court? cos i reckon they are wasting a lot of valuable drinking time thinking about this open and shut matter. fools!


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