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New report reveals clear opportunity for England & Wales to take the lead on legal reform for cohabiting couples

Posted: 27/11/2023

Cohabitation is the fastest growing family type in the UK. Despite it now being so commonplace, unmarried couples who live together do not have the same rights as married people when their relationship breaks down – though many mistakenly believe they do. This lack of rights disproportionately affects the financially weaker party in the relationship, typically when a couple has children, and can lead to significant life-long disadvantages.

A newly published report from the family law team at Penningtons Manches Cooper provides analysis of the legal position on cohabitation in England and Wales and contrasts it with the current state of play around the world. It follows the team’s previous International Family Law Reports, which have compared approaches on spousal maintenance, the international relocation of children, and ‘no fault’ divorce.

Specialist lawyers examined a large number of jurisdictions spanning the globe to create a picture of the legal provision for cohabiting couples on relationship breakdown. They were looking for specific cohabitation laws that should, in theory, make it more straightforward for cohabiting couples to deal with finances, property and other assets, and agree on arrangements for children, when they separate.

Our research shows that while there is general consensus on financial provision to protect to children when a cohabiting couple separates, very few jurisdictions – with the exception of a handful of outliers – have unambiguous provision for the separating parties themselves.

It reveals a clear opportunity for England & Wales to take the lead on legal reform to meet the needs of modern families, echoing key messages from a Vision for Family Justice, also published today, by Resolution, the national community of family justice professionals.

Read the International Family Law Report: The Cohabitation Conundrum here.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP