2011 and still no law for cohabitants

21 November 2011

For the second time in recent years, the Supreme Court has ruled on how to share interests in a family home (Kernott v Jones, 9 November 2011). The law remains outdated and a mess.

This issue is important for the two million plus couples who cohabit in England and Wales. The Scots introduced new law a few years ago to give financial remedies before the courts for unmarried couples who split. The reason given in some quarters here for not doing the same is that if you want financial remedies on separation then you should get married. I find that argument weak, when you consider the Scots give cohabitants lesser rights than married couples - a safety net approach.

Also, the fact is that marriage rates are in long term slow decline. Many cohabitants still believe the law will protect them when it won't. Those who want to establish a share in a family home must use unclear legal procedures. This is unpredictable, unfair and costly. Back in my law school days I learned law should be there as a safety net, a guarantee of minimum rights. Our laws should not compound difficulties in tricky situations. Right now it seems to me they unfortunately do exactly that.

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