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Law on Couples is Out of Step with Modern Families

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I am the Regional Press Officer for the West and North Yorkshire branch of Resolution.  In this capacity I am supporting leading lawmaker Lord Lester's Bill on cohabitation, which was debated in Parliament on Friday 13th March 2009.

Family law on cohabitation is completely out of step with modern family life. Cohabitation is the fastest growing family type in the UK and marriage rates are plummeting. But couples who live together have no legal protection, regardless of the length of their relationship or whether they have children together.

Despite this, over fifty percent of people still falsely believe cohabitants are protected by ‘common law marriage'. It's a disgrace in modern times that families in West Yorkshire and across the country are still left at risk of serious financial hardship if the relationship ends or if a partner dies.

Lord Lester's Cohabitation Bill, which was debated in the House of Lords on 13 March, aims to give legal rights to cohabitants who have been living together for at least two years, or who have a child together. Couples will have the right to opt out of the scheme if they choose to.

Despite widespread popular support for reform, with almost nine out of ten people backing the right for cohabitants to make financial claims on the breakdown of a relationship or death of a partner, progress on this issue has been slow in Parliament. Now Lord Lester's Bill will bring hope to millions of cohabitants across the country.

Lord Lester said: "My Bill represents a new opportunity to deal effectively  with this issue, and I am hopeful that the government and parliament will support it to prevent more and more people and their children from being faced with poverty and hardship in these troubling economic times."

As a family lawyer I know that families come in all shapes and sizes. At a time of recession, Yorkshire families need financial security through laws that protect them, whether they have opted for marriage or not.

Case histories, further statistics, and  background information on Lord Lester QC as well as information on Private Members Bills is available at www.resolution.org.uk/livingtogether .  If you wish to know more about this or seek to have a confidential chat if you are a cohabitee concerned about your legal position, contact me on 0113 336 3349 or r.spencerrobb@clarionsolicitors.com.

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