For many couples Valentine’s Day is a day for reflecting on, and celebrating, their relationship. Many couples will also change their relationship status – that could be by moving in together or becoming engaged. These momentous occasions are very exciting but also have legal consequences that couples should be aware of.
Yesterday, the Scottish Law Commission (“the SLC”) published its eagerly awaited (in legal circles anyway!) Report on Cohabitation. As anticipated, the report recommends fairly significant reforms to the law relating to cohabitants’ claims on separation. Here, some of those recommendations are highlighted.
What does cohabiting mean?
Cohabitants are defined by s.25 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 as “a man and a woman who are (or were) living together as if they were husband and wife or two persons of the same sex who are (or were) living together as if they were civil partners”. Further, in terms of s.25, when determining if someone is a cohabitant, the court will consider “the length of the period during which the parties have been living together (or lived together), the nature of their relationship during that period, and the nature and extent of any financial arrangements subsisting, or which subsisted, during that period.”
When The Family Law Scotland Act 2006 came into force it abolished the ability for couples to begin to establish marriage by way of cohabitation with habit and repute. Despite that being some 14 years ago I still, every so often, come across someone who believes that they have a “common law marriage.”
The Scottish Law Commission has launched a consultation seeking views on whether the law of cohabitation should be reformed.
The number of cohabiting families in the UK has almost doubled in the last twenty years. This may be explained by an increasing trend to cohabit rather than marry or cohabit for a period before marrying. Scotland led the way within the UK by introducing certain legal protections for cohabitants in 2006. This legislation was designed to protect cohabitants from unfair situations arising both in the event of separation or death.
Recently, I have found many of my friends choosing to ‘move in’ with their respective partners for the first time in their lives. I’m sure you also have come across this trend at some point in your life too. It may have been a friend, a family member, or it may even be yourself!
We discuss Cohabitation / Marriage / Divorce, the benefits of Prenuptial Agreements and the wrangling and rumours surrounding the Brad and Angelina divorce.
We explore some of the misconceptions about what rights cohabiting couples have on the breakdown of their relationship or on the death of either partner.
With Scots increasingly holidaying abroad we discuss a few example scenarios illustrating how international family law is a rapidly growing area of practice.