Follow the Supreme Court’s judgment allowing the appeal of bereaved cohabitant Siobhan McLaughlin, Margaret Heathcote, Chair of family justice organisation Resolution, said:
“Resolution is encouraged by this morning’s decision, which supports families and their children regardless of how those families are labelled. Cohabiting relationships are the fastest growing type of family with recent estimates that 1 in 8 adults in England and Wales are living together unmarried. However an unmarried couple’s legal rights when their relationship unfortunately ends or one for them dies are complex and widely misunderstood.
Although many still believe the common law marriage myth, in reality unmarried couples lack basic legal rights regardless of how long they’ve been together or even if they have children, leading to unfair outcomes very often disproportionately affecting women and children.
Scotland extended statutory rights to cohabiting couples in 2006 and in 2007 the Law Commission recommended reforms that would legally recognise the relationship status of these couples in England and Wales. Resolution has long called for reform of the law to fairly address cohabitants’ needs on the death of a partner, and with 80% of the public agreeing that cohabiting couples need greater legal protection, the government must act now to put in place at a minimum basic rights for these couples.”