A couple separated by a thick wall

The Law on Cohabitation – Proposals for Change

Couples could receive financial support from their partners if relationships break down, a report aimed at reforming the law for cohabitants in Scotland has suggested.

In the report published on 2nd November, the Scottish Law Commission reviewed the existing law for cohabitants and found it was “out of date, unclear and overly complicated.”

They found attitudes to relationships and families had changed in Scotland since this was introduced as part of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006.

The Commission recommended reforms aimed at “achieving fairer outcomes” for cohabitants by simplifying the law as well as a broader range of remedies for when relationships break down.

The report suggest a more modern and inclusive definition of “cohabitant” that does not rely on comparison with married couples or civil partners. 

A clearer test for courts to apply when separated cohabitants make a claim for financial provision and guiding principles to achieve fair outcomes for both parties was also suggested.

Parties could provide short-term financial support for former partners in the case of serious hardship, the report suggested, with courts being required to take notice of existing agreements between cohabitants.

Kate Dowdalls, KC, Lead Commissioner on the project, said:- “Problems in this area of law were identified shortly after the 2006 Act came into force.  Reform is long overdue.”

The report has now been submitted to the Scottish Government, together with the draft Bill.  It may well be that the Scottish Government would wish to consult on the proposed changes and recommendations.  A possible date for the Bill to become law is 2025.

Until the law is changed, cohabitants have to rely for financial provision on a law which is unclear and complicated.  There is a strict one year time limit after separation for making a financial claim, after which the claim is time barred.  Until the law is changed, it is important to obtain specialist legal advice in this area. 

Please get in touch if you would wish to know how to make a claim for financial provision within the one year time limit.

Get in touch – call us on 03333 661 274