Rogers & Norton News

Judge says people who cohabit should get the same protection as those who marry

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mr Justice Mostyn, a former divorce QC who represented Sir Paul McCartney, has said there should be no difference in the way that courts deal with the breakdown of any relationship.

These views delivered in a speech to the Family Law Conference, come at a time when there is increasing pressure from senior judges for new laws for cohabitees, especially those in long term relationship to be given new legal rights when that relationship breaks down.

The Head of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, last week agreed that cohabitees should have more protection in law, and married couples should no longer have to go to court to resolve their divorce.

Presently, as a petitioner you are required to file for divorce at a family court and within those proceedings you can seek to resolve the financial consequences of your divorce either by consent or on a contested basis.  Suggestions that the divorce itself could be undertaken outside of court will require careful consideration, especially in circumstances where people represent themselves as often errors or misunderstanding in dealing with one can impact on the other.

For cohabitees there is no formal process or procedure to follow.  The assets are distributed in the manner they are owned and this can often lead to a disproportionate distribution of assets, which may have been acquired through the joint endeavours of the parties, much the same as within marriage. 

Whilst more and more people are choosing to enter into cohabitation agreements to protect themselves, many couples decide against this.  Without marriage and the legal protection this affords this can lead to an imbalance in the financial power within a relationship and leave individuals vulnerable.  Especially, those who are caregivers to children.    

If you have any queries on this article or are seeking advice regarding a divorce or separation contact Kerry Rowell in our matrimonial Department on 01603 666001 or kerry.rowell@rogers-norton.co.uk.