The Law Society has called for legislation to provide financial redress for cohabiting couples in the event of relationship breakdown.
President John Wotton expressed disappointment at the government’s refusal to consider changing the law to protect cohabitants in the current parliamentary session.
Wotton said the current ‘disjointed and grossly inadequate’ law failed to protect the vulnerable, and should be changed to provide a more rational and structured system that gave cohabitants adequate redress when their financial and property rights needed to be adjusted.
Reform could reduce costs, free up time for courts and provide separating couples with a more satisfactory experience, he said.
The Law Commission has proposed legislative change in this area. But justice minister Jonathan Djanogly indicated that the government would not be acting on the proposals in the current session as the family justice system is under review.
However the review, led by David Norgrove, specifically excludes ancillary relief and the financial proceedings surrounding the separation of a couple, as well as cohabitation law, which is dealt with under civil law.
Wotton said family law solicitors 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,’ he said.
Simon Dakers, Head of our Family Law Team, says - these reforms are long overdue and it is disappointing that the Government are planning to ignore the issues once again. There are completely different rules, and very little protection, for couples who are living together, particularly if they live in a property owned by one Partner, or have bought a property jointly and are now splitting up.
Smith Sutcliffe have experts in both our Family Law Team and in our Private Client Team who can advise you about the problems that you may encounter if you are an "unmarried couple" and wish to separate, or you wish to make provision for your Partner after your death - if you are not married and have no Will, then your Partner will not be entitled to anything from your Estate.