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31 October 2014 0 Comments
Posted in Family, Opinion

Judge condemns divorce system

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

This month High Court Judge, Sir Nicholas Mostyn, has called for the abolition of the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage. Sharon MacDonald, Partner in our Family team queries whether or not that is realistic.

Judge Mostyn stated there is no difference between the relationships of married and unmarried couples and made it very clear that he felt that cohabitees should be as protected by the law as married couples.

If you’ve already been through divorce and are left with reduced assets as regards both capital and pensions, would you want to risk somebody else having a claim on them in the early stages of a new relationship when you simply cohabit? While it’s accepted that cohabitees who have been in long-term relationships should be offered some protection, should they be given the same protection as couples who choose to marry? It’s not as though couples do not have the choice to get married.

By treating cohabiting couple the same as a married couple this could potentially lead to a culture where more and more people will choose to live independently, thereby taking up more of the housing which is available to all, so that they are not seen to cohabit if they do not wish to get married (therefore protecting their assets). If this became widespread it could lead to a risk that this will further fracture relationships and family ties by people deciding that they cannot afford to cohabit and that they must therefore only have relationships at arms length?

I feel there must be some balance between recognising that people have a choice as regards to getting married and the legal obligations and responsibilities that it brings. If people do not wish to make that commitment should they still be subject to the same legal responsibilities and obligations? It is an extremely difficult question to answer.

You can find out more about cohabitation in our factsheet which will tell you about claiming maintenance, dividing property and inheriting on death.

Contact us if you want advice on separation whether you are cohabiting or married.

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