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Since the Law Commission’s Report in 2007 which set out recommendations on how to reform the law on cohabitation rights, Governments of all political persuasions have seemingly come up with all sorts of ridiculous excuses for why they do not wish to implement the recommendations of the Commission’s Report.

All the while, Solicitors and Barristers alike have countless examples of clients left economically vulnerable without legal recourse, because of the current law’s shortcomings.

Sadly, the prospect of reform has once again been kicked into the long grass following the Government stating that it has no plans presently to deal with the issue of Cohabitation until it has first tackled the notoriously complex area of financial remedies in Divorce.

There are presently approximately 3.2 million cohabitating couples in the UK, which is broadly a 23% increase over the past decade.

Despite this, there remains a widespread lack of understanding of the law, which remains complex and confusing to most cohabiting couples.  There continues to be a number of myths surrounding cohabitating couples, such as where they assume that after a certain period of time their relationship will be legally recognised for the purposes of financial remedy on relationship breakdown or where they are considered common law husband and wife.  There is no such provision in law, despite the fact that the tabloid press often refer to this term, which adds to the confusion.

It leaves many having to navigate around complex Trusts law, which simply, on many occasions, offers very little by way of legal protection.

There will be some that point to the fact that unmarried couples could consider entering into civil partnerships. However, there is a misconception that mixed sex civil partnerships present a solution in offering legal protection for cohabiting couples, when statistically civil partnerships are only attractive to a minority of mixed sex couples and that the availability of civil partnerships as an alternative to marriage should not reduce momentum for reform around limitation.

It is staggering that we are coming up to the 40th anniversary of the infamous case of Burns -v- Burns [1984] whereby Valerie Burns had no beneficial entitlement to the family home, even after 19 years of being in a relationship.

Outside of parties entering into civil partnerships, the case law which has developed around Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 and the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 is often contradictory, confusing and still does not provide adequate remedies for the vast majority of people.

With the Government now shelving plans to even look at this issue it is a massive blow to all those campaigning for cohabitation law reform that there is seemingly no appetite to tackle this issue or redress the injustice that is happening to the many who end up falling foul of the limitations of the current legal system on a daily basis.

If you want to know more about how you can protect yourself or know of someone else who could benefit from legal advice around this topic, please do not hesitate to contact Matt Clemence, Head of Family Law at Kerseys on 01473 407181 or email [email protected] who would be more than happy to assist you further, alternatively you can visit www.kerseys.co.uk and click “Call Me Back” and a member of our family team will be happy to contact you.

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