Written evidence from Mr Michael Dyson [HAB0151]

Should there be a legal definition of cohabitation and, if so, what should it be?

There should not be a legal definition of cohabitation because its only defining characteristic is a refusal of the commitment entailed by the public vows of marriage. It therefore lacks an adequate base for a legal definition. It’s a relationship that in principle has no inherent resistance to dissolution. It would be incongruous, indeed contradictory, for the law to commit itself to a relationship (by assigning it a legal status) when by definition the parties in the relationship have no verifiable commitment to it.


What legislative changes, if any, are needed to better protect the rights of cohabiting partners in the event of death or separation?

Cohabiting partners already have the right to determine inheritance matters by writing a will. There is no need for any legislative changes.


What equalities issues are raised by the lack of legal protection for those in cohabiting relationships?

There cannot be equality between a relationship primarily defined in terms of publicly avowed commitment (marriage) and a relationship defined by the absence of that commitment. So I do not see how equality issues are relevant in this context.

Should legal changes be made to better provide for the children of cohabiting partners?

Surely this is the wrong question to ask given that parental separation is far higher for cohabitees than for married couples. In this context the law ought to be concerned with how to protect children from the damaging effects of cohabitation, rather than seeking to increase and establish legal privileges for cohabitation.

Should cohabiting partners have the same rights as those who are married or in a civil partnership?

Certainly not. It’s vital that the law upholds and promotes the benefits of marriage – better mental and physical health, more stable family life with less parental separation. To blur the distinction between marriage and other forms of relationship would undermine the fabric of modern civilization.


July 2021