The Women and Equalities Committee has urged the Government to reconsider its position to delay cohabitation law reform, in a letter to Family Justice Minister Lord Bellamy.
In its response to the Committee’s August report, the Government ruled out better legal protections for cohabiting partners until existing reviews on divorce and weddings law have concluded.
MPs have today pointed out this could take “many years” with the Law Commission’s scoping paper on financial remedies on divorce not due until September 2024, ahead of a full review. They argue there is “no reason” why reviewing divorce and weddings law should prevent the Government from pursuing a separate, bespoke regime for cohabitants now.
The Committee also asks for an update on what the Government is doing to raise awareness of the common law marriage myth, which is the belief that people who cohabit have equal rights to those who are married after a certain amount of time living together.
The Committee has written to the Pensions Minister Laura Trott to ask for an update on creating clearer guidelines on how pension schemes should treat surviving cohabiting partners, a Committee recommendation which the Government accepted in principle.
Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said:
“Cohabitating partners are the fastest growing family type. The Government’s position that cohabitation law reform must wait until work on divorce and weddings law had finished is untenable and means basic legal protections for cohabiting partners and their children could be many years away. We urge the Government to reconsider.”
Cohabiting partners make up the fastest growing type of family, with over 3.6 million partners cohabiting in the UK. In August, the Committee warned of ‘inferior’ protections for cohabiting couples compared to spouses or civil partners, highlighting that upon relationship breakdown, the financially weaker partner has no automatic rights to the family home. Instead, they rely on complicated property law and outdated legislation regarding child support.