MP's feel that the myth of 'Common Law Marriage' needs addressing

A poll carried out amongst MPs has found that a clear majority would give their backing to a change in the law, designed to give unmarried greater legal rights.

The results of the survey show that six out of ten MPs believe that couples who live together and then separate should be given legal rights to the property and assets they shared whilst cohabiting. The survey was carried out on behalf of Resolution by ComRes and comes during concerns that increasing numbers of cohabiting couples could be left without a home or money if they separate.

Steve Kirwan who leads Resolution’s work on cohabitation, responded to the survey by saying:

“This poll of MPs confirms the finding of a public survey in 2008, in which 51% of respondents believed, incorrectly, that cohabitants had the same rights as married couples.

“And yet the current situation for people who live together in England and Wales, more often than not, creates injustice and hardship.

“This isn’t about whether you believe people should be married or not, this is about ensuring the people are aware of their legal rights – and the fact that more than two thirds of MPs identify this as a problem clearly points to the need for reform.

“Despite the myth that there is such a thing as ‘common law’ marriage – which hasn’t existed since 1753 – it is possible to live together with someone for decades and even to have children together, and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner’s welfare. That is simply wrong, it needs to change, and it needs to change now.”

The issue has been highlighted at the recent Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow as the party prepared to debate a policy motion on the subject. Lord Marks QC, who is moving the motion, spoke ahead of the conference debate, saying: “It’s fitting that this issue is being debated in Scotland, where of course unmarried couples who live together already have legal rights upon separation. It’s high time for the rest of the UK to catch up and bring the law in step with how millions of people are choosing to live their lives.”

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