Archive for the ‘cohabiting couples’ Category

The Daily Mail today reports that cohabiting couples are twice as likely to split up as married couples, according to a ‘new’ survey based on figures collected between 1991 and 2001.

Am I the only one who’s getting really bored of these sorts of articles in the news? Correct me if i’m wrong, but NEWSpapers are supposed to have NEWS, not old stories. For as long as I can remember, there have been arguments bashed around about the virtues and benefits of marrying over cohabiting. No doubt, such debates will form part of the coming election campaign, with marriage hopefully being a key battle ground for the main parties.

The trouble with statistics is that they can be manipulated to support any argument. So for every survey the Tories come up with about the benefits of married parents for children, Labour will come up just as many numbers to support unmarried couples and single parents. I actually don’t have a problem with the politicians manipulating statistics- if they didn’t have any basis for their policies, I would be more worried. But please, please, please can the newspapers stop printing old news??

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The Daily Mail today reports on the Law Commission’s proposals to change the law to give cohabiting couples  inheritance rights should one of them die without a will. The idea would be that all cohabiting couples with kids would automatically have these inheritance rights, but childless couples would have to wait until 5 years into their relationship to be treated as if they were married.

Personally, I am of the view that we need to keep a very clear line between marriage and cohabiting. Too many people seem to believe in the myth of ‘common law marriage’. To give cohabiting couple more rights to each others’ property will make the institution of marriage totally empty in a legal sense, and muddies the waters further. I am all for freedom of choice, and would have to agree with Baroness Deech’s recent opposition to the failed Cohabitation Bill. People have the right to choose whether they want to stay living together or become a married couple. In fact, I believe it is the right of a cohabiting couple to NOT be treated as if they were married. If they wanted to be treated like a married couple, then they have the freedom to get married.

To give cohabiting couples equal rights to married couples is a halfway house approach, and I am very uncomfortable with this. The law already is TOO COMPLICATED for people and a Cohabitation Bill would make things even more complicated. In conclusion- KEEP THINGS SIMPLE. If you don’t want to get married, that’s fine- but don’t expect to be treated as married by the legal system. Likewise, if you want to marry, that’s also fine- but be very aware of the legal implications before you enter into it. All the more reason for making pre-nuptial agreements enforceable.

All that really needs to happen is for cohabiting couples to be better educated about their options. The Government must do more, in my opinion, to explain to people what they do and don’t have a right to as an unmarried couple. Then, if people are not satisfied with the situation, they can either get married OR, if that seems too much to stomach, they can draw up an agreement with the help of their solicitors.


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