Resolution is backing calls to bring family law into line with the needs of modern families and is supporting leading lawmaker Lord Lester’s Bill on cohabitation, which is debated in Parliament today. Lord Lester’s Cohabitation Bill aims to ensure that both cohabitants are treated fairly when they split up and to provide a safety net for vulnerable people. It gives legal rights to cohabitants who have shown commitment to each other without undermining marriage or civil partnership or freedom of choice. The Cohabitation Bill represents the third time in a decade that Lord Lester has stepped in to modernise family law. His Civil Partnership Bill 2002 was the predecessor to the government’s Civil Partnership Act 2004, and his Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill was passed into law with the support of the Government in 2007.
Family law on cohabitation is completely out of step with modern family life. Cohabitation is the fastest growing family type in the UK and marriage rates are plummeting. But couples who live together have no legal protection, regardless of the length of their relationship or whether they have children together.
Despite this, over fifty percent of people still falsely believe cohabitants are protected by ‘common law marriage’. It’s a disgrace in modern times that families across the country are still left at risk of serious financial hardship if the relationship ends or if a partner dies.
Lord Lester’s Cohabitation Bill, which will be debated in the House of Lords today, aims to give legal rights to cohabitants who have been living together for at least two years, or who have a child together. Couples will have the right to opt out of the scheme if they choose to.
Despite widespread popular support for reform, with almost nine out of ten people backing the right for cohabitants to make financial claims on the breakdown of a relationship or death of a partner, progress on this issue has been slow in Parliament. Now Lord Lester’s Bill will bring hope to millions of cohabitants across the country.
Lord Lester has said: “My Bill represents a new opportunity to deal effectively with this issue, and I am hopeful that the government and parliament will support it to prevent more and more people and their children from being faced with poverty and hardship in these troubling economic times.”
Families come in all shapes and sizes. At a time of recession, families need financial security through laws that protect them, whether they have opted for marriage or not.