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Policy on cohabitation rights

At their party conference, the Liberal Democrats have passed a policy entitled Cohabitation Rights that would give unmarried couples in England who live together fair and reasonable redress upon their relationship breakdown and in cases of intestacy.

English law currently provides extremely limited legal protection for cohabiting couples upon the breakdown of a relationship. This can have an adverse effect on the individuals and any children.

The motion includes proposals based on reports by The Law Commission in 2007 and 2011.

Key proposals include:

  • Ensuring that where one partner of a cohabiting relationship has suffered an economic disadvantage or acquired a retained benefit from that relationship, a court would be able to make an order adjusting the retained benefit or sharing that economic disadvantage between them in case of a relationship breaking up.
  • Upon the death without a will of one partner in a cohabiting couple, the other should benefit from his or her estate provided that certain qualifying conditions were met.
  • Couples would be free to opt out of the statutory scheme by mutual agreement.

A party spokesperson said they would be pressing for this policy to be recognised in law.

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