Written evidence from Taylor [HAB0276]

I am making a submission as I am concerned about the implications of this proposal.

Key questions for the inquiry are:

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

This is a minefield for an effective definition.  What is the length of time needed before the ‘rights’ apply?  What is there to distinguish between lodgers, friends and partners?

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

 

Cohabiting partners can deal with the inheritance claims of a bereaved partner through making a will and/or by making some other legal arrangement to cover separation.

 

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

Children are truly victims in cohabitation, as this kind of relationship is much more unstable than marriage: by the time children turn the age of 5, then 53% in a cohabiting home will have experienced their parents’ separation, compared with 15% for married parents.  Marriage rates have been steadily collapsing since the 1970s and, during my time as a teacher, I have witnessed the increase in family breakdown and the impact it has had on youngsters.   Edward Davies, the director of policy at the Centre for Social Justice, writing in The Spectator (23 June 2021) has commented that children growing up in a home where there is not the stability of marriage are so much more likely to underachieve.  Some say that poverty itself causes family instability but the reverse is also true, that family instability causes poverty.  Among some ethnic communities where marriage rates remain high, their children out-perform others in public examinations compared with those from wealthier but non-marriage homes.  The answer is surely to promote marriage, not undermine it further.

  1. Should cohabiting partners have the same rights as those who are married or in a civil partnership?  &  What equalities issues are raised by the lack of legal protection for those in cohabiting relationships?

Most of the rights attached to marriage flow naturally from the lifelong commitment the couple make in marriage – such as provision for the spouse on the death of the husband/wife.  It is inappropriate that the financial rights of marriage be awarded to those who have not first made this public, lifelong commitment.  Marriage has a particular legal status as it greatly benefits adults and children and society as a whole and it should be promoted, not undermined.  If couples want the legal protections of marriage, they can get married.

 

July 2021