There are plans afoot to give cohabiting partners similar rights on relationship breakdown to married couples. The Law Commission is due to publish their recommendations soon which will include (if the rumours are true)…
the ability to make claims for lump-sum payments
a share of property
a share of the partner’s pension when they separate
claim for loss of earnings if they gave up a career to look after children.
No time stipulation limiting the rights to those together for over (for example) five years
No bar for childless cohabiting couples
No differentiation between the partner who stays in the couple’s home
At present, cohabiting partners have no financial rights if their relationship breaks down, regardless of how long they have lived together. If there are children in the relationship, the partner who has residency will get child maintenance but can make no other claims. The proposed reforms will offer legal remedies to up to two million cohabiting couples.
The reforms are aimed at balancing protecting the rights of cohabiting couples but without giving an automatic right to financial share. It basically allows Courts to make a ruling of maintenance if they wish to (which at the current time they cannot). A cohabitee would still have to prove financial suffering as a result of the split (basically limiting it to long-term relationships anyway). It seeks to tackle the problem that many people believe in “common law” protections which don’t actually exist.