Judge calls for cohabiting rights

Unmarried couples should be given cohabiting rights to each other's property and money if they split, a top family judge has said.

Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the Family Division of the High Court, believes that the cohabiting rights of unmarried couples need strengthening.

Speaking to The Times, he said, "I am in favour of cohabitees having rights because of the injustice of the present situation."

"Women cohabitees, in particular, are severely disadvantaged by being unable to claim maintenance and having their property rights determined by the conventional laws of trusts," he explained.

At present there is no law for cohabiting couples specifying how property and money built up during a long-term unmarried relationship should be divided if the couple splits up. 

Women, who may give up work to look after children, can face financial hardship if their partner is unsympathetic during a split.

Sir Nicholas Wall recommended that couples draw up a cohabitation agreement to protect their financial position in case their relationships turn sour.

Unmarried couples have none of the protection that married couples enjoy; the concept of common law marriage, which many couples believe protects them in law, has never really existed.

Find out more about the myth of common law marriage.

Cohabiting couples don't have the same financial rights or the same parental rights. And if a partner dies, the surviving unmarried partner doesn't have any automatic rights to their partner's estate.

Find out the cohabitation risks, and find out how you can protect yourself, your partner and your family by simply making a will today.

Published on: February 3, 2011

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