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New Laws for Cohabiting Couples is a Can of Worms

Table Of Contents

    The Complexity of Legal Rights for Cohabitees

    So, I’ve been thinking a lot about cohabitees and the idea of giving them the same legal rights as married people.

    On the surface, it seems fair, right? But let’s hold our horses and delve into why this might be a bit more complicated than it first appears.

    Defining Cohabitees

    First off, who exactly is a cohabitee? It sounds straightforward but trust me, it’s anything but.

    We’re talking about people living together without the whole formality of marriage or civil partnership.

    But draw a line between romantic partners bunking up, roommates sharing rent, and family members living under one roof, and things get murky very quickly.

    The Challenge of Legal Uniformity

    Now, imagine trying to apply the same legal rights across the board to all these different living arrangements. We’d first need a crystal-clear definition of ‘cohabitee’ that works for everyone, everywhere.

    And if history is any guide, getting the legal experts to agree on anything is like herding cats.

    Differing Opinions in the Legal Profession

    Resolution, the family law solicitors body, is very keen to expand rights to cohabitees and has been lobbying the Government and Law Commission for years.

    However, they are not the only opinion on the matter.

    Lord Coleridge, former High Court Judge and Head of the Marriage Foundation, says the idea is anti-libertarian and introducing a form of common law marriage would represent a huge extension of the state into people’s private lives.

    Does he have a point?

    The Appeal of Cohabitation

    A lot of people choose to cohabit precisely to steer clear of the legal hula hoops of marriage.

    It’s like having your cake and eating it too – you get the companionship without the paperwork.

    Now, if we go ahead and slap the same legal bindings on cohabitees, aren’t we kind of taking the jam out of their doughnut?

    The Consent Conundrum

    And here’s another interesting one – consent.

    When people get married, they’re signing up for a whole menu of legal rights and responsibilities.

    It’s all there in black and white. But cohabitees? Not so much. They didn’t sign on the dotted line for all those legal ties.

    So, isn’t it a bit rich to tie them into the same knot without them saying “I do”?

    There is an argument, rightly put, that if you want the rights of a married couple, you should get married.

    Currently, the only way unmarried couples can protect themselves financially should their relationship end is to enter into a cohabitation agreement.

    However, even this agreement does not provide couples with the same legal rights and protection as marriage or civil partnership.

    The Internet Age and Common Law Misconceptions

    The argument that too many people don’t realise they don’t have the same rights as married people simply does not wash up in the internet age.

    A cursory search of “common law marriage” on your favourite search engine will bring up 169,000,000 results, all saying the same thing.

    Let it be known, and clear, there is no such thing as common law marriage in England and Wales

    Seeking a Balanced Approach

    Cohabitation rights are somewhat limited under the current law.

    There are certain types of trusts available to protect your money and assets, such as a declaration of trust for property, but how many cohabiting couples know about these?

    So yes, while it sounds super “progressive” to give cohabitees the same rights as the married cohort, the reality is a complicated mess.

    It’s not just about being fair but also about respecting people’s choices and the different shades of relationships out there.

    A one-size-fits-all approach? We need something as flexible and diverse as the relationships it’s trying to protect.

    Societal Responsibility and Traditional Structures

    We seem as a society to be unable to take responsibility for our actions, and everything and everyone must be cosseted and protected at the expense of traditional structures and norms that have served us well for millennia.

    The Road Ahead

    In a nutshell, this is a sticky wicket that needs a lot more thought. Cohabitees deserve some legal protection, no doubt about that.

    But we’ve got to come up with a solution that respects the essence of cohabiting and doesn’t end up being a legal straitjacket.

    It’s all about balancing fairness with freedom and choice. Now, isn’t that the million-pound question?

    If you’re living together with your partner or are looking to buy a house together, you should speak to cohabitation solicitors to help you understand your options and how to protect your money and assets.

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