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Linzi Bull: Cohabitation outcomes after the Law Commission Report

Date:21 DEC 2007

Linzi Bull Solicitor, Harbottle and Lewis

In July 2007, the Law Commission published its long-awaited report into the financial consequences of the breakdown of a relationship where the parties were cohabiting. In addressing this issue, the Commission has looked to the changes to our society in recent years and the problems associated with the persistent urban myth of the 'common law' wife or husband. There has been much media comment as to whether those who have chosen by the very nature of their relationship not to enter into the rights and obligations associated with marriage ought now to benefit from (or be burdened with) those consequences anyway.

It is now widely accepted that, in a society where so many are now choosing not to marry, there must be protection provided not only for the children of cohabitants but also for the cohabitants themselves if they are left vulnerable when their relationship comes to an end. The present system for cohabitants is as is acknowledged by the Law Commission 'complex, uncertain, expensive to rely on and often gives rise to outcomes that are unjust'. However, the Law Commission promises that its recommendations offer a 'workable system to deal with the separation of cohabitants that would be a considerable improvement on the current law' and would 'ensure a fairer division of assets on relationship breakdown'. For the full article, see January [2008] Family Law journal.

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