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Labour's Proposed Cohabitation Law Changes - What Could this Mean for Couples?

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Our Family Law team at JCP Solicitors is often asked about divorce settlements, child-centred co-parenting approaches, and pre-nuptial agreements, among other issues to resolve. However, the fastest-growing family setup is the unmarried cohabiting couple: there are more than 3.6 million cohabiting couples in the UK, making up 18% of all families.

So, how would the proposed changes to cohabitation laws impact the rights of couples who live together?

If Labour wins the upcoming General Election, they have indicated that they would propose reforms which would offer more protection for cohabiting couples should they end their relationship.

These proposed reforms aim to better support caregivers who stay at home to raise a young family, while their partner continues to work. When one partner continues to develop their career, they are also continuing to contribute to pensions and savings, leaving the caregiving partner with fewer assets.

Angela Killa, a Director in our Family Team at JCP Solicitors, explains: “Under current laws, when cohabiting couples split, they have little to no legal protections and lack the right to claim financial settlements in the way that married couples would.

“If an asset, such as a pension, savings account or even a property is in one name, the other partner is not entitled to any shares if the relationship ends. Traditionally, this means it is usually women who are disproportionately impacted in relationship breakdowns, as in a heterosexual relationship it is more usual for the woman to give up work to stay home and cover childcare, meaning they get left with nothing at the end of a relationship if the shared assets are all in their former cohabiting partner’s name.

“Worryingly, many couples believe they hold ‘common-law’ marriage status if they have lived together for a certain number of years. This is a myth, and so any changes such as these proposed reforms would add a layer of much-needed protection to provide people with greater financial security.

“If Labour’s proposed reforms come to fruition, the Party has said it would give those who live with their partners, increased rights should the relationship end.”

If you need advice and guidance on family law, including cohabitation, contact Angela Killa on or call 03333 208644.