27 November 2023

New Research published by Resolution demonstrates need for Cohabitation Reform

This week (27th November – 1st December 2023) is Resolution’s Annual Awareness Week*.

In honour of the organisation’s 40th year, this week also sees the launch of Resolution’s Vision for Family Justice. The Vision document, which can be found here, draws together research, legal analysis and practitioners’ experience to make five key recommendations for the future of family law.

Top of the list of recommended reforms are proposed changes to the law relating to cohabiting partners. Currently, cohabiting couples have little legal protection when they separate. Resolution proposes urgent reform in order to make financial remedies available to separating cohabitees (subject to certain eligibility criteria). The Vision document suggests that the orders the court should be able to make for cohabiting couples be along the same lines as those available to married couples, albeit granted on a different and more limited basis. Resolution also recommends a review of the law relating to financial provision for children of unmarried parents, and the introduction of protections following the death of a cohabiting partner.

A nationwide poll commissioned by Resolution found around half (47%) of cohabitees are unaware that they lack rights should they split up. This research also revealed that:

  • 59% of people polled back better legal protections for cohabiting people.
  • 74% of cohabitees agree that ‘the current laws surrounding cohabitation are unfit for today’s modern society’.

Cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family structure. According to House of Commons Library research, 1.5 million couples cohabited in 1996 but that figure increased by 144% over the following 25 years to 3.6 million in 2021. According to the recent Resolution polling, 83% of respondents believe that cohabiting will become even more popular in future. The growing popularity of cohabitation, combined with the lack of awareness around the legal vulnerabilities of cohabitees, and the overwhelming view that the current laws are out of date, speak to the need for urgent reform in this area of the law.

Other key recommendations in the Vision for Family Justice document include:

  • There should be more public funding for early legal information and advice.
  • The way child arrangements are handled should be improved.
  • The family courts need to meet the needs of families.
  • The vulnerable must be protected in the family court.

Forsters’ family department welcomes Resolution’s Vision for Family Justice and will be supporting Awareness Week by sharing their thoughts and experiences of the issues facing the family justice system. We hope that policymakers will give vital (and overdue) attention to the needs of families and make the changes needed to create a justice system that is fairer and more fit for purpose.

*Resolution is a membership body representing over 6,500 family justice professionals. Resolution is at the forefront of campaigning for reforms to the family justice system and promoting a constructive approach to resolving family issues. All of the lawyers in Forsters’ family department are members of Resolution and subscribe to its Code of Practice.

Resolution Awareness Week

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