The President of the Family Division has called for new rights for cohabitants when a relationship breaks down. He highlighted the potential injustice caused by the law relating to cohabitants and said that women, in particular, are often severely disadvantaged by being unable to claim maintenance and having limited property rights.
The Law Commission’s report in July 2007 made the following recommendations:
- that any legislation relating to financial provision on relationship breakdown should only apply to cohabiting couples who have had a child together; or cohabited for a specified period.
- that legislation should include an opt-out scheme and a requirement for the applicant to show a qualifying contribution, ie that they retained a benefit and/or had a continuing economic disadvantage as a result of contributions made to the relationship.
It was also suggested that in the event of law reform the courts should retain their discretion and if cohabitation was for a short period and the contribution minimal, the courts would not be sympathetic to a claim.
No further action was taken by the government on the recommendations and a Private Members Cohabitation Bill failed to proceed beyond committee stage.