Government sponsored cohabitation: Pandora or Prometheus ?

By Robert Whiston FRSA

The government’s docile acceptance of the Law Commission’s 2006 proposals to increase the rights of cohabitees could threaten social cohesion. Society at large does not know that a similar regime existed 200 years ago and brought only chaos and poverty to women. In wishing society to make a leap of blind faith the government is encouraging a seismic change that could result in society tearing itself apart.

The following is a copy of a paper sent to selected Members of Parliament following the Law Commission’s review of the submissions it had received to its proposal. Chapter 1 of the fully detailed paper submitted to the Law Commission can be viewed at “Cohabitation in the UK – A Legal and Political Jihad Against Males“. (The other chapters of the submitted paper will be published within the near future).

I read with growing trepidation of the proposed intention to give cohabiting couples who separate the same right to apportion, i.e. confiscate, property and assets as divorcing spouses. [1]

Recent newspaper headlines and editorials tell us that cohabiting couples who separate should be given the same rights to each other’s wealth as married couples who divorce.

The Daily Telegraph’s description is euphemistically typical indicating a common press release (26/07/2007).[2]

The public is told that the Law Commission, after sober consideration, believes that “cohabiting couples should be given the same rights to each other’s wealth as married couples who divorce”. In plain English this is the same ‘confiscation’ practiced in the divorce courts. Anyone who has passed through them and witnessed the pantomime known as ‘due process’ knows what a farce and charade divorces courts represent.

The latest resurgence of cohabitate compensation – for it has a long and dishonourable pedigree – sees the public regaled with stories of female homelessness, yet it is more than 30 years since the documentary “Cathy Come Home” shook the public and altered policies. Women with children (but not fathers) were given mandatory housing priority in such circumstances.

Additionally, the discretionary powers of courts have, for more than 10 years, seen the homes of cohabiting men seized and either sold off or given to the former partner. Arguably by blurring the edges and being inconsistent with regard the application of discretion in cohabiting cases the courts have given succour to reformers usually to be found in the English speaking world.[3]

Sacrificial Altar

Men generally, and this includes judges and policy shapers are trapped in a two way bind. Instinctively they want to be both fair and gallant; they want to see that the lady doesn’t suffer. This was the compass Denning always used. But too often fairness has been sacrificed on the altar of gallantry. This is but one example of the unequal apportioning of property – another is the gallantry displayed with regards fairness is the CSA system (invariably imposed by those who don’t have to pay).

In theory the father pays his half for maintenance and the mother her half. But it is the state which actually pays the amount on her behalf. Contrast this with the USA where no Welfare State exists but where some states insist the CSA assessment is based on a 48/52 payment split between both parents.

If men generally can realise that sexual intercourse can lead to pregnancies which in turn can automatically lead to CSA payments, then it should not be beyond the wit of women in generally, to realise that cohabiting grants them no property rights whatsoever.

Why should it ?

As a cohabitee they already enjoy automatic child custody rights while the father has none.[4]

Members of Parliament, 123 of them from all parties, put down an Early Day Motion (EDM 1338, Jan 2006) to the effect that the law is in such a total mess that therefore cohabitants should receive automatic rights and obligations “akin to marriage”.[5]

If that truly reflected the state of the law then one could empathise, but it is not. The law is crystal clear – it is only the stirrings of judges that muddy the waters.

That EDM has been followed by a report from three Exeter University academics coincidentally financed by the Ministry of Justice (July 2007). Their report backs the need for change. However, they do not address how long a couple must live together before being entitled to the rights.

The wording of the EDM is especially apt as it disguises the lack of knowledge possessed by the signatories regarding 500 years of gradually evolving law , i.e. ‘this house believes that …….. ’

A belief or an opinion held is simply not good enough when considering how to dispose of another person’s accumulated wealth.

The Law Commission has, since 1965, turned our family law and inheritance inside out and accelerated a programme of reform into one that is radical but untested.

In 2006 it published its version of cohabiting rights. [6]

They envisaged property moving, in every circumstance, to the woman but never the man.

If this development is permitted we will return, in all probability, to the chaos of the mediaeval epoch where ‘sponsalia per verba de futuro’, and ‘sponsalia per verba de praesenti’ and arguments as to which status applied to which couple before the court, reigned supreme.

The fall of the Spartan state to a second-rate army was preceded by the gradual transference of land ownership to women (estates, farms and houses) and a reduction in its fighting capabilities both quantifiably and qualitively.

Gender Privileges

As a member of the GES (Gender Equality Scheme run by the Ministry of Justice), I have to ask “How does this proposal affect gays, lesbians and transsexuals (GLT) ?”

The answer is that it gives them more privileges than heterosexuals.

Prime Minister, Tony Blair was seen as leaning towards a reform of the law on cohabiting and homosexuality despite his religious aspirations. Gays have been given unparalleled rights and opportunities under his administration, e.g. civil unions and cabinet posts.

His successor Gordon Brown might be seen as more of a traditionalist and keen not to be outflanked by David Cameron.

Gays can now choose to be married or live informally, i.e. cohabit. Heterosexuals, in contrast, are about to have that right to choose snatched from them. Whether they marry or cohabit a strong possibility exists that in the future they will be hit with eye-watering levels of wealth confiscation.

About 4 million people, out of a population of 60 million, are estimated to be cohabiting (ie 7%). Despite claims that homosexuals represent 10 % of the population they actually only constitute 3% of the overall UK population. Therefore, most cohabiting couples will be heterosexuals and many will have children.

Cohabiting homosexual ‘couples’ will be a very small percentage of the 3% and homosexual couples ‘with children’, i.e. via adoption, a still smaller percentage of that 3%.

Mary Creagh MP the primary sponsor of the EDM states that between 1996 and 2004, the number of cohabiting couples with children increased by more than 50% to 2.2 million. She and others state this as if it is an emphatic number to be relied upon. Unfortunately, cohabiting couple are a ‘flow variable’ and not a definite stock number as in the case of married couples. Cohabitation either evolves into marriage or it breaks up within 18 months (on average).

Yes, “The proportion of unmarried women who cohabited with a partner trebled between 1979 and 2002. And yes, “Today, one in three babies is born outside marriage, compared with one in 20 in 1963.” However, that is not the whole story. A glance through ONS statistics one finds that the 2.2 million is made up of single mothers, i.e. divorce, separated, widowed or never-married mothers. These are the women ‘forced’ by the Social Security system to live as a cohabitee.

The well-intentioned Finer Report of 1976 changed benefit payments for single mothers and the trend line in illegitimate births rose within 2 years, i.e. 1979 and has grown annually thereafter.

The Law Commission, and the judiciary as a whole, have been “in denial” for many years and certainly uncoupled from the real society all around them. However, in recent times they have had to recognise that our courts are creaking under the work load and some are not working at all. [7] The former Prime Minister Tony Blair emphasised this point several times in speeches between 2002 and 2006. [8]

Reinforcing Failure

The consequences of institutionalising cohabiting rights will probably bring about a further fall in the birth rate (except for the Asian community) which will reduce our economic growth. [9] It might also increase both the rate and numbers of partner rotation – this will unsettle even more children than divorce presently does. But even if the numbers cohabiting were to remain at present day levels, the courts, currently facing 170,000 divorces per annum, will be left to face a combined total of over 250,000 family court actions per annum. CAFCASS will also be engulfed.

The aspiration of reformers for “the law to catch up” with society is therefore a forlorn one.

New Zealand has already embarked upon the course of gifting rights to cohabitees but it is proving far more complicated than anyone anticipated.[10]

Reform of gambling laws and licencing laws were at the time seen as positive steps, bringing at last, a ‘bistro culture’ to Britain and relieving town councils and police forces from the burdens of enforcing absurd or petty laws.

But what has happened in every sizeable town in Britain ? An apartheid has been created; binge drinking and street assaults flourish; night time ‘no-go’ areas have emerged which only young drinkers and the police frequent.

If ministers can visualise themselves reluctantly considering the revocation of gambling and licencing laws, that reluctance becomes a sheer cliff in the matter of cohabitation rights.

What is often described as ‘progress’ or a ‘seismic social changes’ in our society boils down to simple economic incentives. Pundits delight in pointing to the falling marriage rates but fail to also mention the disproportionate financial encouragement given to its alternatives.

If weddings in England and Wales showed a fall of 10% in 2005 (to 244,710) it probably has nothing to do with marriage, of itself, but everything to do with economic and Benefit disincentives.

That marriage can survive when not subsidised by the state points to its uniqueness and enduring strength. The fatal flaw with cohabitation is that is invariably requires to be subsidised and longer term has never been shown to be economically viable.

Ardent reformers tend to forget that at its most basic, marriage is often no more than the orderly transfer of wealth between generations. Marriage facilitates exclusive and direct inheritance – cohabitation never can. After a lifetime of serial monogamy which of the woman’s children gets to inherit what and from which fathers ?

Marriage, in contrast, confirms the sense of ‘self’ and of lineage which we now know plays a pivotal role in ‘socialising’ adolescents, especially boys, ready to become the next generation of adults.

Turning Back the Clock

Undoubtedly Mary Creagh is as equally well-intentioned as Finer, but she may not have fully considered the consequences. No doubt the Bill introducing the CSA was equally viewed as solving problems but the co-signatories of EDM1338 are only turning back the clock and re-enacting the mistakes of history – something reformers and activists say is impossible, ‘Genie is now out of the bottle’ etc.

The debate and raison d’être of the Marriage Act 1753 illustrates the belief that fewer marriages might take place if the state is not actively committed to formalising unions between men and women.

Similarly, fewer marriages occurred in economically strained times, e.g. when male employment is low or harvests are poor. Even cohabitation depends to some measure on income levels, good overall economic prospects and stability.

With single women now earning more than single men we should not be surprised at low marriage rates. [11] But this does not mean that single women do not want to get married one day – and to a man free from of the encumbrances of a cohabiting partner. Generations of “2nd wives” vouch for the impoverished lifestyle they endure because of a former wife’s financial demands on her new husband.

In 2006 the Law Commission, to which Mary Creagh refers, published Cohabitation: the Financial Consequences of Relationship Breakdown as a Consultation Paper (No 179 Overview). The report is perhaps the most reckless set of proposals since they created the concept of ‘associated person’ in 1995. They propose ‘property adjustments’, a pretentious term for the legalised amputation of property and assets, as a ‘one way street’ – always moving from the man to the woman, but never from women to the man.

If a man cohabits a 2nd, 3rd or 12th time you can image what will happen. This is a recipe for poverty and a spur for the widening of the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

This is conduct that would not be recognised as equitable from a Human Rights Act or Equality Act 2006 position nor would it be in compliance with the Policy Appraisal for Equal Treatment of 1998 that four of the major departments of state, including the Home Office, are obliged to observe in advising ministers.

Discussed 340 Years Ago

In opposing their plans we can trace the chaos of such arrangements to the times of Jonathan Swift (1667) and through the following eras.[12] In those periods, with no distinct or universal form of marriage, various public panics about clandestine marriages, fleet marriages, common law marriages, ‘irregular marriages’, disinheritance etc, were rife. There were so many types of ‘union’, and variants, that the Court of Arches (the divorce courts) was asked not to dissolve marriages but to prove which ones legally existed. What is relevant today is that courts had to arbitrate between two women as to whose ‘relationship’ ranked above the other.

So appalling had the situation become that a Royal Commission was set up. The social and personal disasters, usually widows, caused by a multi-level marriage regime are spelt out in its pages.

Not only could legitimacy suddenly be turned into illegitimacy but the prospect of a widow inheriting a thriving family business could be dashed by the re-appearance of the husband’s first common law wife, i.e. not married in front of a priest (a form of self-marriage commonly found in Scotland. Vestiges remain in the tradition of ‘eloping’ to Gretna Green).

We get a flavour of the misery caused to ordinary folk in the Charles Dickens’ novel “Bleak House”, and the part ‘Jarndyce v Jarndyce’ plays in wrecking an inheritance

It is now generally agreed that Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753 brought order to the chaos and at its enactment it was welcomed as seen as redeeming the situation.

The Act of 1753 provided for a standard marriage procedure that set basic demarcation boundaries where anything that stepped outside the prescribed format was made illegal and void. [13]

Wives who married in church could be assured that insurance policies would be paid only to them – not shared with other women they had never met; they would be entitled to any annuities, incomes from estates and the complex world of ‘fee simple, ‘fee tail’, ‘tail male’, ‘tail general’, could not be turned against them.

Widows could inherit their husband’s businesses; they could sell it and pocket the proceeds to start a new life. His will providing for his orphans could at last be replied upon and they would not ‘bastardised’ by another woman’s lunge for their father’s inheritance.

Dying Intestate

In our reply to the Law Commission’s paper of July 2006 we predicted a possible scenario if the Commission persisted with cohabiting law reform. The measures, we predicted, would lead to the resurrection of instability and ‘uncertainty’ in matrimonial matters.

When we predicted a return of the scenario where two women would fight over a dead man’s estate (a common occurrence in years gone by, re: ‘irregular marriages’ and ‘Bleak House’) we little realised the prophesy would be fulfil a few months later in April 2007.

Scotland, which in 2006 had passed virtually the same law now intended for England was soon confronted with a £200,000 estate of a (male) intestate cohabitee. He had been killed in an accident the previous year. [14] “SL” had been his live-lover and was the mother of his children. The new Scottish law stated that if a death is intestate the estate passes to the children (arguably little different to the current English law). This meant “SL” had to fight the children for the right of inheritance. She had to make a claim under the new Act, employ one lawyer to represents her and, to avoid a conflict of interest, a second one for the chidlren.

This was exactly the same situation with ‘irregular marriages’. The legal fight in those days was between two parties – they could be women or sets of children. Actions could be protracted and both parties (women) would probably we more in lawyer’s fees than they would inherit – or be penniless.[15]

The would-be reformers of EDM 1338 have a stark choice to make between two realities. If we accept their argument for a need to reform inheritance, the choice is whether we turn our back on a rigid but exclusive schemes for widows and legitimate children or encourage a uncertainty regime where single mothers and any attendant children regardless of who their father(s) might be, do battle in court for the spoils ?

The impression we have gained of working with fathers who have had their property amputated is that the courts construe ‘beneficial interest’ very widely indeed.

If tiny numbers of unlucky women exist who are left homeless we should consider it more a question of a solicitor’s incompetence than legislation.

The answer is not more legislation but either to educate females and to get women street-wise.

Free Love Flop

What pulled down the Soviet regime’s flirtation with wholesale cohabitation was the clogging up of Soviet courts by dependant women with dependant children demanding maintenance payments from the various biological fathers. Russia was forced to re-introduce state sponsored marriage in 1935 after its ‘free love’ format finally floundered. Stalin grudgingly realise that treating women purely as “units of production” was wrong headed.

In contrast, the French as always have a somewhat more pragmatic approach to sexual matters. They have both a church and a state marriage but in addition a legal status for mistresses (or common law wives). The legal regime is known as “certified concubinage” and applies to both orientations. Arguably, for those cohabiting, and where allegedly one or both parties are afraid to take the next step of marriage, their existing informal status could be regularised or at least officially acknowledged by a trip to the Registry Office for a civil registration, a la France.

Perhaps applying for a Special Licence which could be reserved for cohabitee unions. In their own minds they would still be cohabitees but legally they would be “as married” as same-sex couple who cannot then marry in a heterosexual context without committing bigamy. It would protect their needs and cost them next to nothing. It would ensure the exclusivity element that is a prerequisite to ensure commitment and avoid hurt feelings and future vexatious litigation.

If the proposal to share cohabiting couple’s assets affects heterosexual and not homosexuals we believe it would contravene the intent and spirit of the Equality Act 2006.

And if confiscating assets of cohabiting couples is extended to homosexuals, how will it apply where no children are concerned to justify the action ?

All the Law Commission’s model proposals categorically give the assets (which suddenly become ‘joint’) to the woman as she is perceived as the ‘vulnerable party’. But surely this quaint concept, along with the ‘unimpeachable spouse’, was trashed by Lord Chief Justice Ormrod in the 1980s ?

What, one wonders, will be the determination used for gays and lesbians when both sub-sets are viewed by Government as ‘vulnerable’ groups in society ?

The option of an ‘opt-out’ agreement is offered but the de facto status is that both parties have opted in. A moot point when the tipping point in judgments is whether there are children from the sexual association. This potentially neutralises any opt-out agreement. These scenarios, including multi-partners, are now being played out in New Zealand. [16]

The timeless problem that bedevils divorce is the stretching of a modest but often insufficient income across two households. We see no merit accruing in spreading family court misery to a second sub-set of the population particularly when the intention of the 1969 Divorce Reform Act was to facilitate re-marriage where the marriage was dead, by making divorce easier.

If the Gender Equality Act and participants in the government sponsored Scheme is to enforce strict compliance – as outlined in the EOC address at the Ministry of Justice – then a reading of Part 1 and Part 2 of the actual statute – which does not allow for gender discrimination – would seem to immediately compromise the Act in that gays and lesbians are advantaged and heterosexuals are disadvantaged.

We have not yet found solutions to the problems created by the reforming zealots of the 1960s. Is this really the best time to throw the jig-saw pieces up in the air again ?

For the cheap girlish thrill of opening a forbidden box are we prepared to squander the long-term advances that a daring Prometheus and the ordeal he endured so that Mankind’s civilisation could emerge ?


Appendix A

‘Agreement eases the pain of a break-up’

The Dominion Post (NZ), 4 September 2007

[Bold type added – RW]

Should your financial planning include the question of what happens if your relationship breaks up? An unromantic thought. But John McCrone finds ‘contracting out’ can prevent greater heartache.

Breaking up is never easy – emotionally or financially. And despite the apparently simple 50-50 split now guaranteed under the Property Relationship Act, there are still money traps for the unwary.

Take the second wife [UK equiv. cohabitee – RW] who did not feel happy with how much she was left in her rich husband’s will. Taking advantage of the act, she elected to go for a 50-50 division of all relationship property.

It is a still little-known provision that unless an explicit opting-out agreement has been signed, the act can now override the wishes of the deceased.

Well, the dead husband had a pot of assets worth $6 million. But this turned out not to be relationship property because the money was accumulated before the relationship and successfully kept separate.

The only joint asset was the house, worth $500,000. Furthermore, the wife had come into the relationship with $2 million of her own. And this had been mingled with his finances, so was deemed relationship property.

The upshot? The wife ended up owing money to the estate under a 50-50 split of relationship property! And, having made her election before realising the situation, she could not go back and take the original deal in the will.

Family law experts are full of tales like these.

Auckland QC Anne Hinton says that for young couples and those with little wealth, the five-year-old Property Relationship Act does work quite well.

“Like all systems, it works best for the average.”

But she says for those in second relationships, with blended families, or with any money worth fighting over, the new legislation just means there is new set of legal games that people will need to learn about.

Or discover once it is too late.

Andrew Watkins, a family law specialist with Duncan Cotterill in Christchurch, says where there is any uncertainty, or where any trusts are involved, it has become essential to make “break-up planning” part of your financial planning.

Couples may protest this is unromantic. But Mr Watkins says it is better to get everything out in the open from the start with a prenuptial agreement, or “contracting-out agreement” as it is now called under the act.

The clarity created by a frank discussion is invaluable compared with the cost and heartache lawyers are seeing at the other end of a relationship. The Property Relationship Act was overhauled in 2002.

The headline change was its extension to cover all couples – gay, de facto or married – who had been together longer than three years.

A relationship was clearly taken to exist if two people were living together, supporting each other, and were sexual partners.

But Mr Watkins says courts’ interpretation of a relationship can be broad.

For example, a common misunderstanding is that a couple have to be sharing a roof. However, he says it only needs to be shown they are accepted publicly as a couple and are financially entangled to some degree.

One recent court case involved a man who lived in Guam and visited a woman in Hamilton only occasionally. Yet she was living in one of his properties and had a claim. [Associated Person revived – RW ?]

Mr Watkins says the courts can also recognise multiparty relationships – where both a man’s wife and his mistress are treated as long-term partners.

There is then the tricky question of when the three-year clock starts ticking.
For example, there may have been a long period of casual dating before a couple decided to live together.

“When does a friendship or a flatting relationship turn into a qualifying relationship? There is no right or wrong answer. It is a matter of perception. And this creates real problems,” Mr Watkins says.

The other vexed matter is what qualifies for relationship property. Mr Watkins says this can be less than people think.

The family house, its contents, cars and other jointly used property are automatically shared.

Any assets bought or income earned during the relationship must also be shared. This includes increases in the value of superannuation policies.

But a share portfolio, business shareholding, or rental property acquired before the relationship can be kept out of the equation, so long as it has been strictly treated as separate property.

If a woman’s caring for the children was a factor in allowing her partner to build up a company, or if a new husband was helping out with the DIY at a rental property, then the courts can decide there is a claim under the Property Relationship Act .

Mr Watkins says the same is true of gifts and inheritances. These can be kept as separate property even if they come in once a relationship is established.

He says they are safe if they go straight into a bank account or share fund in a single name and get left alone.

But use any money to pay off the mortgage, or in other ways contribute to the common pot, and it becomes relationship property.

Section 15 of the act allows for stay-at-home partners to claim more than 50 per cent.

Mr Watkins says the act recognises that there can be cases like a wife of a high flier giving up her career to bring up the kids.

A fairer asset division might be 60-40 or even 70-30 because, after the split, he can still earn big money while she has to start from scratch.

However, Mr Watkins says, so far the courts have been reluctant to make significant awards and wives have ended up with little advantage after paying the legal fees.

He says that little by little, as case law builds, the realities of the act are hitting home. The way the act can override a will is another of the biggies.

People are also learning how to fight dirty.

Sheryl Sutherland, of Christchurch financial planner Women’s Financial Strategies, says if partners want to avoid a 50-50 split, they may try to hide their assets. Or simply stonewall till the other person tires or runs out of money to fight.[ Bleak House].

“The stalling tactics employed can be very effective. I can think of one case where the woman has been waiting for settlement for three-and-a-half years.

“There are millions of dollars involved and whether she’ll ever get anything or not, I don’t know,” Ms Sutherland says.

Mr Watkins says the other side can also play hardball, particularly with trusts, many of which are weakly administered.

Where there is a weakness, it is the new Property Relationship Act rather than the old trust system that is getting the benefit of the doubt in court.

Mr Watkins says for this reason, any couples who have cause to worry about a 50-50 property split ought to negotiate their own contracting-out agreement. And this is doubly so if trust structures need to be protected.

Contracting out from the act involves both sides taking independent legal advice and reaching their own view about what would be fair in any future settlement.

Mr Watkins says an agreement can be negotiated at any time, but the earlier the better. He says it is also a good policy to limit the life of the agreement to five years or so.

To cover the first few years of a relationship – while fears of getting involved with a gold-digger may still lurk – the agreement might be less generous. But after that, it would be only natural to build in a progressive relaxation.

Kirsty Robertson, a clinical leader with Relationship Services, says a contracting- out agreement is a good idea.

“My view is we should talk about the things we’re scared of. Then they’re less likely to happen,” she says.

Ms Robertson says where there is financial inequality going into a relationship, a forthright negotiation creates certainty. One partner will not be wondering if there is a risk of being left high and dry – and the other, of being taken to the cleaners.

Ms Sutherland agrees, saying there is no reason why “break-up planning” cannot be a positive step, especially if it is broadened to talk about all of a couple’s goals.

“I’d put in quite a lot of detail in a prenuptial (agreement), like how much money you can spend without consulting the other person. Also I would include how you’re going to operate your accounts and your future financial goals, like how you’re going to plan for having children.”

Mr Watkins repeats that for many couples – those starting out on an equal footing in first relationships – the act undoubtedly works well. But everyone else needs to make sure they know what the new rules are and how they would apply in a break-up.


Footnotes ::

[1] “Cohabitation: the Financial Consequences of Relationship Breakdown”, Law Commission Consultation Paper: (No 179 Overview) ::; (No 307 Full Report) ::

[2] “Cohabiting couples ‘should get rights'”; By Sarah Womack, Social Affairs Correspondent, Telegraph; 27/07/2007;

[3] “Spurned lover sues for share of millions”, Sunday Herald Sun, 9 September 2007. Former mistress sues one of Australia’s wealthiest men for a slice of his fortune. He may counter sue to recover a $1 million house he allegedly gave her. The case could set a legal precedent on the legal standing of de facto relationships. [NB this is nothing short of a return to the outlawed ‘breach of promise’ action abolished in the UK in 1970 because of its propensity to encourage women to be “gold diggers”. It was implemented using Section 37 of the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act 1970].,21985,22386262-662,00.html

[4] Even a legally married father is today barred from being the legal guardian of his own legitimate child – Children Act 1989 (Presumably the state is. If so, why should CSA payments be demanded by the child’s real, i.e. legal, guardian ?)

[5] EDM 1338 (10:1:06) Mary Creagh MP, “ That this House believes that the law relating to unmarried couples is shambolic and in urgent need of reform because there is little or no legal protection for cohabitants on relationship breakdown; and, while welcoming the introduction of civil partnerships for same sex couples, calls on the Government to introduce a new law to provide a safety net for couples of whatever sexual orientation who live together as its next priority.”

[8] “Full text of Queen’s speech 2002”; The Guardian, Nov. 13th 2002;

[9] Women who marry have more children than women who cohabit. (say 1.7 v 1.4). – ONS Population Trends.

[10] Property (Relationships) Act 2001 amended 2004 and 2005

[11] (a) “Young women earn more than men in big U.S. cities”; By Rachel Breitman; Reuters, Fri Aug 3, 2007;; (b) “For Young Earners in Big City, a Gap in Women’s Favor”, By Sam Roberts, New York Times, August 3, 2007. Study: Men’s earning lag behind in NYC, Chicago, Dallas

[12] The topic of divorce was much discussed in the 17th century; prophetically the contemporary opinion was that divorce should be ‘consigned to the relatively wealthy’ and that ‘it would be disastrous for ‘the poor’. John Milton (1608-1674), published several tracts defending divorce with the right to re-marry, both were radical stances at the time (see “Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce”, circa 1642, and “Areopagitica” a year later). Cruelly, Swift observed, that were written by a man married to a shrew.

[13] The act was valid only in Britain. It did not apply to ‘the colonies’, hence many suits persisted into the 1880s.

[14] “New family law could bring legal misery”; By Bob Burgess; The Southern Reporter; 20 April 2007;

[15] The backdrop to ‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens

[16]“Agreement eases the pain of a break-up”; The Dominion Post (NZ), 4 September 2007. See also Appendix A:

One response to “Government sponsored cohabitation: Pandora or Prometheus ?

  1. Pingback: Killing Custody « Motorist matters

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