The Cohabitation Rights Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords on 9 October 2013. The bill proposes that cohabitees who have lived together as a couple for two years or more, and/or have a child together, will have the right to apply for financial remedies. The bill does not go so far as to offer cohabitees the full range of financial remedies that are available to married couples; however it does incorporate lump sum orders, sale or transfer of property orders and pension sharing orders. It does not entitle cohabitees to periodical payments.
In order to avoid being subject to the new provisions, one would have to ‘opt out’. The key issue is clearly how quickly this important stipulation will trickle down to people. One can absolutely envisage a scenario where a couple, having been living together for more than two years unaware of the active ‘opt out’ provision, suddenly find their partner has a number of claims against them. It should also be noted that in in order to opt out one will have to receive independent legal advice.
With the increasing number of divorces, many people choose not to get married, simply to avoid the messiness of dealing with the finances if they separate. It is surely questionable, therefore, how appropriate it is for the government to regulate these relationships and allow the proposed reforms to the law of cohabitation.
Read more about the Cohabitation Rights Bill here
Update 14/11/2016: to see the progress of the Bill, click here