Living Together - The Future

Divorce and Family Law

The Law Commission have published a paper “Cohabitation; the Financial Consequences of Relationship Breakdown.” The full report can be accessed at

The 2001 census recorded over 2 million cohabiting couples in England and Wales, an increase of 67% from the previous census. The number of cohabiting couple households with dependent children doubled from the previous census and over 1,250,000 children were dependent on cohabitants. Recent forecasts from the government actuaries department predict that by 2031 there will be 3.8 million cohabiting couples. As it stands the rights of these couples to resolve financial matters on separation are complex and uncertain.

The Law Commission proposes a change, but does not propose that those who are living together have the same rights as those who are married. The Law Commission recommended that a remedy should only be available were:-

  • The couple satisfied certain eligibility requirements
  • The couple had not agreed to dis-apply the scheme
  • The application had made qualifying contributions to the relationship giving rise to certain enduring consequences at the point of separation


The scheme which is proposed would only apply to cohabitants who had had a child together or had lived together for a minimum number of years. That minimum period has not been stated, but it would probably be between two and five years.

Dis-applying the scheme

Couples will be able to opt out of the scheme. There is supposed to be a standard opt-out agreement. The view that it is wrong to force cohabitants who have not chosen to marry or form a civil partnership into a particular legal regime against their will.

Qualifying contributions

 It is not intended to put parties in the same position as if they would be if they were married. Applicants would have to show that they had made qualifying contributions to the parties relationship which had given rise to certain enduring consequences at the point of separation. Simply cohabiting for however long would not give rise to any presume entitlement.

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