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Marriage has declined in Britain over the last three decades and increasingly couples choose to cohabit. When these relationships break down, cohabitants cannot expect fairness from the law simply by virtue of their relationship. Instead they must rely on an inadequate legal framework, based on the complex principles of property law.


Resolution recognises that people choose to marry or cohabit for a variety of different reasons. While supporting marriage, we believe that the law should be reformed to achieve fairness and protect vulnerable cohabitants.


Resolution is calling for a new cohabitation law, separate from matrimonial legislation.


The legislation should define cohabitation as a 'personal relationship (other than a legal marriage) between two adults in which one provides personal or financial commitment and support of a domestic nature for the material benefit of the other'.


The proposed new law should:

- allow the courts to take into account all the circumstances to do what is fair and reasonable between the couple. The court should take into account the level and extent of the commitment between the couple. There should be a presumption that, as far as possible, both people should be self-supporting.

- enable cohabitants to apply to the court for financial relief where cohabitation has continued for a minimum period of two years. Where there are children there should be no minimum period.

- provide for the courts to make lump sum and property adjustment orders and award short-term financial support for not more than three years from the date of separation.


To preserve individuals' freedom of choice, Resolution recommends that cohabitants should have the right to make an informed choice to 'opt-out' of this legal framework by means of a cohabitation contract.

News and Views : Reforming The Law On Cohabitation

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