We strongly support the campaign by Resolution #ABetterWay to raise awareness of the legal issues surrounding cohabiting couples and we are arranging to meet with our local MP to support the move for a change in the law. It is a common misconception that rights are acquired by cohabitees after a certain length of time of living together. It has become an urban myth that after three years of living together the cohabitation is treated as a ‘Common Law Marriage’. Nothing could be further from the truth. A man or woman can live with his or her partner for many years in the house owned by the other partner and have no rights in the event of the breakdown of the relationship, despite having brought up the children of the relationship and contributed in terms of work and financially. The present law is based on antiquated 19th Century Law, whereby the cohabitee has to prove what was said and intended about the ownership and what was contributed to the property when, during the course of the relationship, possibly going back many years.
We support a change in the law whereby there would be criteria set out in a new statute to guide the Court in dealing with disputes. The criteria would be similar to, but not the same as, the law relating to divorcing couples. Potential rights would only arise after a certain period of cohabitation, perhaps three or four years. There would be no presumption of a 50/50 split. Instead, the law would look at what is fair, taking into account length of cohabitation, contributions, the needs of any children and any other relevant factors.