Legislation To Protect Separating UK Unmarried Couples Overdue

According to the Office Of National Statistics, unmarried couples and families living together are the fastest growing cohabitants in the United Kingdom. As of 2016, there are approximately 3.3 million cohabiting families and the number has doubled since the statistics taken 1996 at 1.5 million.

Legislation for the protection of  unmarried couples and families is well overdue.  Lawyers have been arguing this issue for well over 10 years.  This includes the rights and responsibilities of unmarried couples upon separation and should be addressed as soon as possible.

A recent survey by the Family Lawyers Organisation of its members revealed that 88% of cohabiting couples believe they have legal protection.  It has also shown that 98% mistakenly believed they have the same rights as married couples.

Due to the statistics from surveys, it is believed that legislation for unmarried couples has not provided proper legal protection.  Back in 2007, the Law Commission recommended a plan that would be a contribution-based financial award for separating couples who had a child together and lived together for a certain period of time.  Couples in the plan also had the option to back out if they chose to.

In 2011, the government announced they would not move forward with these proposals.  Even though the commission called on the next government to move forward and not delay, there was a lack of interest or political will.  In light of more pressing issues of national interest, there have been no changes.

Nigel Shepherd, chair of Resolution and head of family law at Mills & Reeve, told Solicitors Journal that his organisation envisions a law where unmarried couples could meet the criteria, through a committed relationship, allowing them the right to apply for certain financial orders upon separation.

This right would kick in automatically unless the couple chose to back out.  The court would be able to make the same orders as they do for divorced couples but on a limited basis.  These benefits could include payments for child care which would allow the caregiver the ability to work.

According to Julia Thackray, former head of the family team at Penningtons and programme leader at Central Law Training, believes reforms are well overdue.  She went on to point out, with the increasing number of couples living together, it is even more critical that the government gets back to the issue of cohabitation and financial protection for these people.  This issue should not be a carbon copy of divorce but should offer some level of protection and as a safety net where  otherwise real needs will not be met.

Unfortunately, there are many cases where people are extremely vulnerable, they have children, cannot work or only work part-time, and this contributes to more family financial concerns.  They have to compromise their earning abilities and limited housing options and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.  In other situations where couples do not have children but have other expenses, they are not allowed to make a property claim.  Due to other expenses, it may allow the property owner to pay off more on their mortgage so they can have an advantage later on.

In June of 2015, Lord Marks introduced the Cohabitation Rights Bill to address this huge vacuum in the law.  This bill would provide basic protections for unmarried couples and a provision for their property upon one partner’s death.  Under the bill, the court would be able to make a financial settlement order where there is a “retained benefit” or “economic disadvantage” dependent. This would allow for “qualifying contributions” be made for either financial or other reasons.

Before an order can be presented, the court must deem whether it is fair when addressing any “discretionary factors” which would include the earning capabilities of both parties and the welfare of a child.  Couples would also have protection upon a death instead of just separation and this is a very important point.

Lord Marks’ bill also has safeguards in place that would provide protection for insurable interests in lives, being intestate upon death, and rights related to their home.  It also provides for the possibility for a claim against a partner’s estate upon death.

Lord Marks will take part in an upcoming debate to support extending the legal rights of those who choose not to marry.  Those advocating reform will want to stay up on the progress being made by the bill in the House of Lords.  Without a specific date for the second reading of his bill, no one is any closer in guaranteeing cohabitation laws will meet the demands of the 21st century than the Law Commission was 10 years ago.

Unmarried couples should have the same protections and rights as those who are married.  With the growing number of people are choosing to live together vs marrying, the government must address these concerns in a timely manner.

Divorce Laws in the UK

In Europe, you would find that the judicial system varies from country to country. In the UK, for instance, the ‘English law’ applies, while North Ireland has its own legal system that is mostly identical to English family laws with minor changes, if any.

Then you have Scotland’s legal system, which firstly is in a wholly separate jurisdiction and has a different court-structure. The only similarity would be that both share a magnificent Supreme Court, situated in Parliament Square. The laws themselves are quite contrasting. 

Scotland’s laws don’t offer the same provisions that the UK does to couples. In fact, as per the sound cohabitation law, couples don’t get the same rights as married couples. There is, however, scope for dispute resolution even for cohabiting couples.

Even when it comes to married couples, the divorce proceedings, financial settlements and general laws governing divorce are markedly different when compared to that of England’s. Scotland is a bit more conservative when it comes to divorce laws, and the two systems are so different that where the ruling is in favor of the husband in one system, in the same situation, the ruling would perhaps be in favor of the wife in any other system. Lets take the case of a non-working woman married to a wealthy man. This woman has got a sizable inheritance over the course of their marriage.

If a divorce is to occur, then the woman would be at a huge financial disadvantage after the ruling in Scotland, where the ruling will be in favor of the husband. On the other hand, England’s laws provide the woman a monetary settlement that covers her basic needs so that she can meet her needs in full without much effort. By contrast, Scotland merely offers half of their shared assets and three years’ maintenance. The assets her husband owned prior to marriage are out of the scope of Scotland’s divorce laws. 

Now in the instance where there is a dispute between Scotland and the UK, where each party wishes to conduct the proceedings in a different jurisdiction, then the divorce proceedings will be held in the country where the parties had their most recent matrimonial home.

England and Wales are considered to be in the same jurisdiction, so if the matrimonial home is in England or Wales, but the wealthier party chose to hold the proceedings in Scotland, then the decision of Scotland’s court could be contested and the petition would be stayed.

Scotland’s laws require strict time-limits regarding the divorce-petition application or agreement between parties, whereas the UK  is more liberal when it comes to this. England requires financial disclosure before any kind of financial settlement, whereas Scotland does not require it.

Scotland and England are quite different when it comes to their laws, so choosing to hold your divorce proceedings in either jurisdiction could have an effect on the final ruling, so you should consult your family lawyer as soon as possible regarding the same.

For more information and help with Divorce:

http://www.hadaway.co.uk/family-solicitors/247-fixed-fee-divorce-a-civil-partnership-dissolution

Dealing with legal matters

For the majority of people, dealing with legal matters, is an activity which they prefer to avoid. With so much at stake, the experience can become extremely stressful.

However, at some time in our lives, most of us will need to have contact with a solicitor. Whether it is for a simple matter such as selling or buying property, or perhaps making a will, or for a more involved matter such as a divorce or a matter regarding dismissal from employment that needs to be appealed, a solicitor is often needed. No matter what your legal problem or situation may be, it is essential you seek out legal advice from a qualified expert, preferably one working in your region of the country. If you live in the North East area and are having a legal problem, your first step to gaining a resolution that is satisfactory is to find the appropriate solicitor in the North East to help you with your problem.

Let us first take a look at family law. Within the scope of this, with this detailed field of law, you will find law that covers child custody, marriage, separation, divorce, paternity disputes, and child support. Due to the family bonds that are involved with this kind of litigation, it can be extremely painful and there is often a great deal of belligerence. The advice that can be provided by an unbiased professional is essential when dealing with these situations. When family matters are involved, it is extremely easy to lose your temper and not think straight.

Legal aid is usually available for these types of legal issues. When aid is not available, it may be possible to pursue other options and you will want to locate a solicitor who is accredited through SRA in family law. Homelessness, housing issues, and domestic violence also fall in this category of family law. Because these issues are of a very serious nature, they need to be quickly and expertly resolved.

Trusts and wills are a particular section of family law that often leads to contention. By having the legal advice from an expert, you will not only be assured that the legal issues are dealt with properly, but also that all parties involved remain on good terms and are satisfied. When large sums of money are involved often heated arguments will occur. By finding the correct family solicitor to deal with these disputes in the North East, you will be able to achieve a solution that is amicable and maintain good relationships, as opposed to a dispute that may run for years or even cause a lifelong feud.

Dying intestate can be a difficult situation for your family, which is why any responsible adult should take the time for the essential task of making a will. There are many who prefer to create their own wills, however, wills that have been prepared improperly are not enforceable. For your own inner peace, and the comfort of your heirs, it is extremely important that you have a will that has been properly drafted. A solicitor will also be able to give you advice regarding questions you may have about inheritance tax.