Written evidence from Mr Chamberlain [HAB0353]

 

I am responding to the call for evidence in my personal capacity as a retired family man, married for 31 years and with two adult children.

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

Cohabitation is an intrinsically informal mode of living together. Any legal definition which defines some modes of ‘living together’ as cohabitation, and therefore implicitly or explicitly excludes other modes, would risk denying rights to partners whose mode falls outside the definition. But avoiding such (unanticipated) denial is presumably the whole point of the suggested legislation.

  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 already have the choice of joint tenancy or tenancy-in-common of real property, and can make wills regarding their personal property.  If they want more, they can marry or enter into civil partnership.

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

If partners cohabit other than by choice, laws regarding coercion, slavery etc. presumably already apply.

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

This is probably necessary, since children may be victims who have not chosen their parents’ way of living. Indeed, having children should clearly impose overriding responsibilities on their parents, unless this is already adequately covered by the various Children Acts.

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

Cohabiting partners must be presumed to have chosen that way of life, over both marriage and civil partnership, because they do not, or do not yet, wish to assume those responsibilities. Giving them the same rights as in those partnership models would effectively turn cohabitation into a third form of formal partnership, either leaving no informal option, or risking missing some cases as discussed under point 1 above. The suggestion appears to be yet another doomed attempt to give rights without responsibilities, whereas one partner’s right is inevitably another’s responsibility.

  1. Are there examples of good practice in relation to the rights of cohabiting partners in the UK or internationally that the Government should seek emulate in England and Wales?

I have no contribution on this point.

July 2021