Earlier this week Resolution issued a press release announcing the results of a parliamentary panel survey conducted by ComRes. For the survey, commissioned by Resolution, ComRes interviewed 157 MPs between 26 June and 24 July 2013.
The report states that there are more than 5.3 million people in a cohabiting relationship in 2012, a figure which has almost doubled in the last 20 years.
The Resolution press release states that 69% of MPs agreed there is a “mistaken belief in the existence of “common law marriage” among their constituents, and that 57% believe the law needs to be changed to provide greater protection for unmarried couples upon separation.”
Steve Kirwan, who leads Resolution’s work on cohabitation, said that the ComRes survey “confirms the findings of a public survey in 2008, in which 51% of respondents believed, incorrectly, that cohabitants had the same rights as married couples.”
The press release also refers to the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference where, on 16 September, Lord Marks QC confirmed his intention to introduce a private member’s bill in the Lords to implement the Law Commission’s proposals from 2007, which would give rights to qualifying couples on separation. The proposals he referred to were contained the Law Commission Report on Cohabitation: The Financial Consequences of Relationship Breakdown (Law Com No. 307) which recommended reform to the law and suggested that financial relief should be available to separating cohabitants, but only where certain criteria were met. These criteria were that the couple satisfied certain eligibility requirements in terms of the length of their relationship and that the person seeking a settlement had made “qualifying contributions” to the relationship. Couples would also have the opportunity to opt out of the scheme. Despite widespread support for these proposals, the recommendations have not been implemented.
The Autumn Conference was held in Scotland, where unmarried couples already have rights on separation. The full details of the policy motion “Cohabitation Rights” can be found here on the Conference Agenda.
The Telegraph reported on the survey, supporting the story with a description of the high profile case on cohabitation between Patricia Jones and her former partner Leonard Kernott.
My earlier post Cohabitation and the law explores the current postition.
Image by Peter Pearson under a Creative Commons Licence