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Commons Library publishes ‘common law marriage’ and cohabitation paper

Date:15 FEB 2016
The Library of Commons last week (Tuesday 9 February 2016) published a new briefing paper relating to ‘common law marriage’ and cohabitation across England and Wales.

The paper includes statistics for the number of cohabitants in Britain, and general information regarding how the law applies to these cohabitants and future reformation proposals from the Law Commission.

Although cohabitation is the fastest-growing relationship type in the UK and cohabitants can have legal protection in many respects, it gives no actual legal status to a couple – unlike marriage or civil partnership – and, presently, a cohabiting couple has little legal protection should they decide to separate.

In November 2015 Graeme Fraser, spokesman on cohabitation law for Resolution, explained this further:

‘Under current cohabitation law it’s possible to live with someone for decades and even to have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner, particularly when the relationship breaks down. This can have a huge impact on women and children, particularly in cases where a mother have given up or reduced her work to raise a family.’

Resolution's Manifesto, launched in February 2015, has urged the government to provide some basic legal rights for couples who live together if they separate.

The full Commons Library briefing paper is available to view and download here.