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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 July 2007, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
How cohabiting plans might affect you
Couple holding hands
Cohabiting couples can opt-out of the proposed scheme

The Law Commission has suggested cohabiting couples should be able to make a financial claim if they break up after two years together or having a child.

Government ministers are currently studying the proposals, which would let couples who choose to make their own financial arrangements opt-out. But how could the proposals affect you if they were implemented?

TOM AND LAURA - EXAMPLE 1

SCENARIO: Tom and Laura are both in their 20s and have been living together for two years in a south London flat, rented from a private landlord.

Both have worked full-time throughout the relationship and have kept their finances separate.

They have split their bills and all other money spent on the flat. They are now separating.

OUTCOME: Tom and Laura are unlikely to be affected by the scheme.

Firstly, they may not have been living together for long enough for it to apply - the period of time would ultimately be set by government ministers, but was recommended as between two and five years by the Law Commission.

Secondly, neither could claim to have lost out financially during the relationship, nor have either benefited with respect to property as they were renting.

The relationship has been economically neutral.

  • Had Tom bought a house which Laura then moved into, and Tom had paid the mortgage without any assistance from Laura, there would also be no case for a financial claim.

  • However, if Laura had contributed to the mortgage payments, and then they had split up, Laura would be entitled to make a claim.

    TONY AND SHAZIA - EXAMPLE 2

    SCENARIO: Tony and Shazia are both in their 30s and had been living together for three years in Tony's house when they started a family.

    Tony's salary was enough to support the family, and as they both wanted their baby to be looked after at home by Shazia, they agreed she would not return to work after Ellie was born.

    They are now separating. Ellie, now two, will live with Shazia.

    OUTCOME: Shazia could make a financial claim under the proposed scheme.

    As a result of giving up work, Shazia lost out on earnings, her pension, and disadvantaged her career. This could lead to hardship for Ellie, who is closely affected by Shazia's finances.

    Tony must share the economic disadvantage caused by Shazia's contributions. He should minimise her losses.

    For example if Ellie needed paid childcare while Shazia was at work, Tony is required to share those costs.

    A court could order Tony to make a capital award to meet Shazia's claim, which could be paid for in instalments.

    Both must jointly meet the basic costs of caring for Ellie, in Tony's case by means of child support payment.


    VOTE RESULTS
    Should cohabiting couples have the same rights as married couples?
    Yes
     30.79% 
    No
     63.50% 
    Not sure
     5.71% 
    15949 Votes Cast
    Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

    SEE ALSO
    Q&A: Cohabitation rights
    31 May 06 |  UK
    Love, marriage and... tax breaks?
    10 Jul 07 |  Magazine
    Marriage 'keeps families united'
    07 Sep 06 |  UK Politics
    Church backs co-habiting rights
    11 Oct 06 |  England

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