Written evidence from Mr Trevor Morton-Holmes [HAB0028]
My view is that as cohabiting couples make up the fastest growing type of family, with over 3.4 million couples cohabiting in England or Wales then they certainly accept their existing legal rights.
If it’s true there is a widespread perception that people think cohabiting couples have similar or identical rights to those who are married then there should be an awareness-raising campaign. Not a fundamental legal change which would undermine marriage. Once that campaign was completed then a judgement can be made to see if there is any change in the trend.
If their existing legal rights are changed then it muddies the waters for cohabitating couples, married couples and those in civil partnerships. There should always be a choice and the existing laws gives the various couples a choice. Currently each couple type can be proud of the choice they made as it gives different legal rights.
If couples want the legal protections of marriage, then they can get married. Parliament has also made civil partnerships available for all couples which includes no life-long commitment. Creating a second alternative to marriage is completely unnecessary and will profoundly undermine marriage.
There is further evidence that it is wrong to change the law to give same rights to cohabiting partners such as;-
Marriage is undermined if the same legal rights are given to those who have freely chosen not to be publicly committed to each other. The public commitment of marriage promotes stability for families and particularly for the upbringing of children and therefore benefits society as a whole. That’s why marriage was given particular legal status. It greatly benefits adults and children, and by making all couple types have the same legal rights it will in effect undervalue marriage and therefore society.
Some proof that marriage is much more stable than cohabitation is that by the time the children turn five, 53% of children of cohabiting parents will have experienced their parents’ separation, whereas for five-year-olds with married parents, this is 15%!
Giving more legal rights to cohabitees will encourage cohabitation, which is inherently more unstable and so will escalate more family breakdown in society – already costing the public purse over £50bn each year.
Most of the rights attached to marriage flow naturally from the lifelong commitment. Since a couple have committed to one another until death separates them, the law automatically provides for when such a death occurs. This does not apply to those who have not made this commitment, nor should it.