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New research from the
law firm Seddons highlights the urgency surrounding newly reintroduced
Co-Habitation Rights Bill in Parliament.
In stark contrast to existing laws, nearly half (47%) of Britons mistakenly
believe that unmarried couples possess all of the same rights as married couples
to seek additional financial support from one another for any children they have
together. This perception – unearthed in a new survey undertaken by YouGov for
the law firm Seddons – has highlighted the urgent need to progress Parliamentary
legislation addressing this discrepancy.
survey – taken by 2,074 GB adults – found that 27% believed that unmarried
couples have some of the same rights as married couples when it came to
child-related financial settlements (separate from any required mandatory
maintenance payments). Further, some 8% of survey respondents believe that
unmarried couples have none of the same rights as married couples in such
situations, which is also untrue based on current
women are more likely to believe that unmarried couples share all of the same
rights (51%) than men (42%). Those aged 55+ were most likely to believe that
unmarried couples have all of the same rights (51%), compared to 42% of those in
each of the three lowest age brackets (aged 18-24, 25-34 and
are pursuing settlement mechanism which does exist, highlighting urgent need for
the current system, the only way unmarried parents can seek financial support
for a child in the event of a separation is under Schedule 1 of the Children Act
1989. However, statistics from a
recent Freedom of Information request by Seddons to the Ministry of Justice
indicates that few such couples are actually doing so.
2014, only 141 awards under Schedule 1 were
recorded by The Principal Registry (High Holborn) of the Family Division (now
known as the Central Family Court), which handles the vast majority of such
claims in the London area. With a total of only 407 awards recorded since 2011,
this is in stark contrast to the overall number of unmarried parents (both
opposite- and same-sex) with dependent children in the UK, which the ONS reports was nearly 2.1 million as of 2014.
together, these figures demonstrate the urgent need for legal reform and
clarification of these rights, particularly given the increasing trend of
cohabitating (unmarried) families in the UK, which grew by almost 30% between 2004 and
2014 according to ONS figures. Such reforms were initially attempted in
the last Parliament through the Co-Habitation Rights private members bill
introduced in the House of Lords. Although the bill was abandoned in the last
Parliament in the run-up to last election, it has now been reintroduced in the
House of Lords.
to family law experts at Seddons, supporting the proposed legislation on the
rights of unmarried parents for such financial settlements should be amongst the
key priorities of the newly elected Tory majority government. Doing so would
not only address this long-held discrepancy in rights between married and
unmarried parents, but also help to bring much-needed clarity and public
understanding surrounding the rights of unmarried couples when it comes to
Jeff, Partner and Head of Family at Seddons, commented:
insights shine a stark spotlight on the widespread confusion and misperceptions
which exist in terms of the rights of unmarried parents regarding child-related
financial settlements. It also appears that the single avenue which does exist –
Schedule 1 claims – is widely underutilised, as shown in the data we’ve
is clearly widespread public support for equal rights between married and
unmarried couples in this area. However, the law remains different and often
less generous for children of unmarried parents in terms of capital settlements
and is in dire need of reform to bring it into the modern age.
newly reintroduced Cohabitation Rights Bill would go some way towards clarifying
unmarried couples’ rights, so it is therefore imperative that the newly elected
Government tackles this glaring issue with utmost urgency. Doing so would give
much-needed clarity and redress to the millions of UK families involving
unmarried parents. No longer can the proverbial can be kicked down the road on