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Archive for the ‘unmarried couples’ Category

Firstly, apologies for such a long break from blogging- mid December to mid Jan was incredibly hectic! However, I simply couldn’t resist returning to the blawgosphere with a little something about David Cameron’s recent discussion of marriage. I should say at the outset that I am really excited to see marriage being treated as an election issue. At a time when there are so many things happening at an international level (aid in Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq to name a few…), an issue such as marriage will almost certainly get Joe Voter motivated to actually go and make his voice heard at the polling station come election day. Because, as important as things like climate change and the war in Afghanistan are to us British folke, when it comes down to it, what we really want to know is how the various parties will deal with issues that affect us on a daily basis- things like tax, families and education. Such issues feel much closer to home than high brow discussions about G8 summits etc etc.

So today in The Times, it is reported that David Cameron has slightly back-tracked over his pledge to reward married couples with a tax break. The pledge seems to have been watered down into a tax break for married couples with children. This appears to be a nod in the direction of the Labour party, who have always said that tax breaks should be for parents not married couples. A source close to Ian Duncan Smith has suggested that this would be a ‘downpayment’ for a full tax break for all married couples, which would be introduced at a later stage when it can be afforded. 

I get a bit worried when politicians promise something in the future but leave room for a speedy exit. I just hope the Conservatives stick to this policy when/if they form the next government. As much as I am excited about marriage being debated in the broadsheets, I just hope this isn’t a load of hot air.

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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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