Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The rights of cohabiting couples

Well, the law commissions report on the rights of cohabiting couples is making the news again, so I will say what I said before:

The Law Commission has been sticking its nose where it does not belong in this area for some time.

The issue is that people think that if you live together for 3 months, 6, 12, 2 years or so many full moons you have the rights of a married couple.

You don't.

In fact you have no rights at all. The only place where complications arise is where property is in the names of more than one person, as either tenants in common or joint tenants.

In the former case the proportion owned by each party is a complex balance of who put in what whilst in the latter an equal split is assumed, regardless of the number of joint tenants.

In principle the fact that an intimate makes no legal difference to a case. So it does not matter if you share a bed or not, but rather obviously it does make a bit of an evidential difference.

According to this report in the Times, the Law commission proposes giving unmarried couples the same rights, dropping requirements for a time limit, but adding ones for financial disadvantage.

However the article at almost its last gasp says this:

"Research shows that few people are aware of their lack of rights and many wrongly believe that cohabitation makes them “common law” spouses with rights similar to those of married couples."

That is certainly true, but that only applies to some unmarried couples not all, so the ignorance of the many is being used as an excuse to change the relationship of the rest without dealing with the real problem which is that most people have got it wrong.

It only takes an afternoon to get married in a registry office and it need not cost a lot of money. The issue is that people don't know, and even if they did they would not always want to get married. Getting married carries obligations as well as rights. These proposals seem to confer rights where they did not exist before without adding the rights.

The rules the Law Commission want to bring in appear to be applied to same sex couples as well. What I found interesting is the hostility to these new rules from the gay community who fought for and got the right to have same sex relationships recognised in law who object to the changes because they can see that if you want those rights, you can go and sign up for them today with no change in the law.

All this happens against the backdrop of London becoming the divorce capital of the world. Ellee Seymour has this excellent article highlighting why.

1 comment:

CityUnslicker said...

I think you mean obligations at the end of the 3rd para from the bottom.

But overall I agree with you, this is a terrible idea and I had a different take on it too.