The Government’s announcement yesterday that it will delay acting on the Law Commission’s proposals for the introduction of legal protection for couples who live together, means continued distress and hardship when their relationships end.
Findings from the British Social Attitudes Survey published by the National Centre for Social Research in January 2008 back the case for urgent reform of the law.
“The government is seriously out of step with public opinion on this issue if it does not act now. The British Social Attitudes Survey revealed that nine out of ten people think that a cohabiting partner should have a right to financial provision if their relationship is a long-term one, includes children and has involved prioritising one partner’s career over the other’s,” said Jane Craig, a member of Resolution’s Cohabitation Committee.
“The present law creates real injustice for many people. Our members frequently see people who face financial hardship and even homelessness as a result of the current law. Any further delay inevitably means further injustice for some people,” said Jane Craig.
The British Social Attitudes Survey revealed widespread confusion over what protection couples that live together have under the law, with 51 per cent of people still believing that cohabiting couples have rights as “common law” spouses – but no such right exists.
A government-funded awareness campaign in 2004 clearly failed to get the message across sufficiently that living together does not provide cohabiting couples with financial rights if their relationship ends, even if they have lived together for many years and have had children together. Instead, these couples face increased insecurity and distress at the time of relationship break up.
At the request of the Government the Law Commission consulted widely on this issue and its proposals for legal reform were published on 31 July 2007.
“The Government must and should act now to ensure an end to the injustices and vulnerability created by the present law,” said Jane Craig.