Political parties in the United Kingdom (UK) may typically disagree on just abouteverything, but one belief they share, is that to award marriage-like rights tounmarried couples would both
„undermine the institution of marriage‟ and erode thetraditional „family unit‟.
Such public policy concerns have prevented the currentgovernment from providing comprehensive legislative protection for unmarriedcohabitants. The same policy concerns have restricted the scope of judicialremedies and have also seriously impeded initiatives taken by cohabitants toregulate their own affairs in the form of cohabitation contracts. These policyconcerns are, however, neither supported by modern public opinion nor endorsed bystatistical evidence which is available from jurisdictions where such rights have beenenjoyed by unmarried cohabitants for some time.
„Cohabitant‟ is not specifically defined in UK law but is generally taken to be a
party to a same-sex or opposite sex couple who live together in the manner of ahusband and wife without the benefit of marriage.
The majority of unmarried couples who cohabit do so in blissful ignorance of their lack of legal status
and “at their own peril.”
Parties who cohabit outside marriage do not have the legal responsibilities of a married couple. Nor do the benefits and burdens of matrimonial law extendto them.
While many believe that they gain marriage-like rights over time
, this is not thecase. The
concept of „common law marriage‟ disappeared in 1753 when Lord
Hardwicke introduced the Marriages Act for the purpose of eliminating illicitrelationships. Public policy since then has been concerned with promoting and
Ian Duncan Smith, Family Law Newswatch, www.familylaw.co.uk
Bessant, C “Cohabitation, Reform and The Human Rights Act 1998 (2001) Fam Law 525
The Property Rights of Cohabitees
(Hart Publishing, Oxford 1999)
Parry, M. L.
The Law Relating to Cohabitation
edn Sweet & Maxwell, London 1988) 1-04 P6,
British Social Attitudes Survey (2008)