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Lessons to be learned from Scottish cohabitation law

  • July 17, 2012
  • By Hunters Law

In the recent Scottish cohabitation case (Gow v Grant [2012] UKSC 29) the Supreme Court heard that unmarried couples living north of the border enjoy rights that are not shared by those living in England and Wales.

Section 28 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 introduced the right to compensation for unmarried couples, and enables cohabitants to apply to the court for financial provision if they find themselves in a position of financial vulnerability on the breakdown of a committed cohabitation relationship.  There is currently no corresponding remedy under the law of England and Wales.

Baroness Hale of Richmond said that there were “lessons to be learned” from the practicability and fairness provided by Scottish legislation and suggested that those cohabiting in England and Wales ought to have the benefit of the same sort of legal protection as their Scottish counterparts.

Steve Kirwan, chairman of Resolution’s Cohabitation Committee which represents family lawyers in England and Wales, commented that “the situation for people who live together in England and Wales more often than not creates injustice and hardship, and our current law fails to reflect the way people are choosing to live their lives”. He echoed Lady Hale’s words by urging ministers in Westminster to revisit this matter.

These sentiments follow long-standing judicial calls and the Law Commission’s recommendation for reform of this area of law. A link to the Supreme Court’s website where the judgment can be read in full is here.

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