The Cohabitation Rights Bill received its first reading in October 2013. The Bill proposes a reform to the current rights of cohabitants, and has far reaching consequences. Not only does it seek to provide a cohesive legal definition of what a cohabitant is, it also proposes to allow an individual to apply for a financial order against his or her cohabitant. This article looks at how the law currently views this area and what the implications of the Bill would be if it were to become law. The article also delves into the disparity between pre-marriage cohabitation and post-divorce cohabitation in current case law. The Bill is divisive with those for and against cohabitation reform both feeling strongly. There is a strong paternalism versus autonomy argument with those against the reform feeling that one individual's rights against another ought not to be forced onto them. Others, supported by the Law Commission, feel adamant that reform is much needed to reduce the hardship that arises from relationships which breakdown leaving one party with very little recourse for their financial needs.
The full version of this article appears in the March 2014 issue of Family Law.