Government drops plans for cohabitation law reform

Tuesday 20th September 2011

Many cohabiting couples are not aware of their lack of legal protection if their relationship breaks down.

The concept of the common law spouse does not exist in English law although many couples think that if they live together long enough then they will obtain rights similar to those of a married couple should they separate.

In 2007 the Law Commission published a report recommending that the 2.2 million cohabiting couples in the UK should have more protection if they split up. Since then the Government had indicated that it plans to reform cohabitation law, however, it has now announced that these reforms will not happen in the foreseeable future.

Family lawyers have long been campaigning for a change in the law because many view it as unfair and discriminatory against those who choose not to marry. Despite this U-turn by the Government cohabiting couples are still able to sign a cohabitation agreement which would give them stronger rights should their partner die or should the couple separate.

The family team at Gordons has expertise in drafting cohabitation agreements which cater for all eventualities. Theo Hoppen, a solicitor in our family team, is well aware of the problems cohabiting couples face when they separate

“I often find myself having to break the bad news to a client who has been cohabiting that his or her claims are very limited, often relating to property only or any children of the relationship.

By way of illustration, the court cannot order maintenance for the benefit of a cohabitant, only for a child of the relationship. In contrast, the court can order maintenance for a spouse for the rest of his or her life. This situation can be avoided to a large extent by entering into a cohabitation agreement and I am preparing more and more of these agreements as cohabiting couples wish to protect themselves on separation”.

Gordons’ family lawyers are specialists and nationally recognised for their experience and expertise in drafting cohabitation agreements. If you have any queries or would like further information on the issues covered in this article please contact Theo Hoppen, solicitor in Gordons’ family team on 0113 227 0306 or at