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Penny Booth: Relationships, relationships

Date:7 FEB 2011

Penny BoothI see that there are rumblings about cohabitants not having legal support - thank goodness for the dear judge because it would appear that we need to remind the coalition government that something has to be done about the position of cohabitants. This is particularly important for the financially weaker party and the Law Commission's excellent work in 2006-7 ought not to go to waste. I do not think that giving some recognition to longer-standing relationships or ones where there are children of the relationship in order to provide legal protection in defined circumstances will undermine marriage. It may make marriage/ civil partnership an attractively straightforward option, actually. After all, if you want to marry, you will, and Lady Hale's comments in the Radmacher judgment in November 2010 clearly show some judicial support for marriage (and for marriage, read civil partnership?) -a legally recognised state on which judges have frequently commented as a personal state worth utilising for bringing up children.

Law ought to be used to protect the weaker members of society and for the weaker parties to be protected. We all once said something like - that was why we were interested in law - to help people and protect them from themselves - so why not protect cohabitants where it serves weaker parties, children and society?

Domestic Violence just got a teensy bit harder to navigate (see Hayley Trim's Analysis). The widening of the definition by the Supreme Court has been taken out of context (read it properly, you silly tabloids!). This misunderstanding of interpretations in cases (and subsequent analysis by academics, at times) does no-one any good, except to provide stock for the potty scribblers in newspapers who then try to make fun of what is said, scare readers about the application to their lives and generally act in a silly way. Shouting and verbal abuse has been recognised as potential domestic violence for a long time - it just needed a periodic revaluation and we needed to say it again. Of course, all partnerships are different - what is verbal abuse to one is a jolly good exchange of views to another - but the law has to move as our expectations move and change just so long as it is appropriate to use the law to recognise new situations.

Not to worry: seems Cardiff academics (Sunday Times News Review, page 10, 30 January 2011) tell us that being happily married cheers you up and allows you to live longer. The health benefits of stable relationships are good for you - premature deaths are reduced by 10-15% among the 7 countries surveyed, among other benefits. Well done John Gallacher of Cardiff University: "Marriage and other forms of partnership can be placed on a sliding scale of commitment, with greater commitment conferring greater benefit."  Well well - literally.

Penny sets the questions for Family Law journalCPD, a new way to gain CPD points by answering multiple choice questions based on the content of the journal.

She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law. Click here to follow Penny Booth on Twitter.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.