16 June 2023

MPs urge the Government to end delay on protections for cohabiting partners

The Women and Equalities Committee have urged the government to reconsider delaying reform to cohabitation law.

The call comes after the government ruled out better legal protections for cohabiting couples until existing reviews on divorce and weddings law have concluded, following a report from the Committee in August. In a letter to Family Justice Minister Lord Bellamy, MPs pointed out that these existing reviews could take “many years”, and that there is “no reason” why reviewing divorce and weddings law should stop the government from pursuing a bespoke regime for cohabitants now.

The Committee also asked for an update on work to dispel the “common law marriage myth”, through which many wrongly believe that cohabitating for long enough will provide protections equal to those provided by marriage.

The Committee has written to Pensions Minister Laura Trott to ask for an update on creating clearer guidelines on how pension schemes should treat surviving cohabiting partners.

The original report cited Later Life Ambitions, who warned that while spouses only needed to provide their marriage certificate to secure their entitlement to their spouse’s pension, cohabitants must produce evidence of mutual dependency such as joint mortgage or tenancy agreements, joint insurance policies or joint bank accounts. Former General Secretary of the Civil Service Pensioner’s Alliance, Lisa Ray had commented that about 80% of cohabitants rely on trustees’ discretion to secure their partner’s pension, and called for greater clarity on pension entitlements.

Women and Equalities Committee Chair, Rt Hon Caroline Noakes MP commented: “The Government’s position that cohabitation law reform must wait until work on divorce and weddings law had finished is untenable and means basic legal protections for cohabiting partners and their children could be many years away. We urge the Government to reconsider.”

Widows and Widower’s pensions for life is an important campaign for the CSPA. We will continue to pursue the cohabitation law reform and the impact on cohabiting partners. 

Please take a few seconds to share our campaign video below and watch Lisa Ray give evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee last year. 

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