The Law Commission Consultation on Cohabitation

22 AUG 2006

Matthew Humphries, Solicitor, TLT Solicitors. The dust of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 has only just started to settle and there are now further proposals for reform regarding non-married relationships, including same-sex couples who choose not to enter a civil partnership. In May 2006 the Law Commission published its consultation paper on the financial consequences of the termination of cohabitant relationships by separation or death. In 2002 the Commission considered this area, albeit with a much greater scope, in its discussion paper Sharing Homes (Law Com No 278) and decided that it was not possible to devise a statutory scheme to quantify beneficial interests in a shared home which can operate fairly 'across the diversity of domestic circumstances which are now to be encountered'. The current consultation is much narrower and expressly makes no attempt to consider the law as it applies to all of those who live in the same home, such as blood relatives, but is limited to dealing with 'couples', that is those of the opposite or same-sex who live together in intimate relationships.

The author says that there are undoubtedly cases where financial hardship is suffered as a result of the inadequacies of the current financial provision for unmarried couples at the end of their relationship, whether that is caused by death or separation. The proposal from the Commission contains a number of sensible and constructive ideas upon how this unfairness can be addressed, but those solutions in turn raise their own difficulties. See October [2006] Fam Law 860 for the full article.

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