What are the advantages and disadvantages to the individuals concerned and to society more widely of granting legal recognition to the status of cohabitation? How should the law define cohabitation? In our presentation we are going to take a look at the concept of cohabitation and its advantages and disadvantages in case of legal recognition. Cohabitation is also known as the common law marriage but in the contrary of popular beliefs, cohabitants don’t automatically get the same rights as married couples do. For same-sex couples it is possible to register a civil partnership agreement which grants protection, this type of contract however isn’t possible for a hetero couple. Cohabitants can enter into a cohabitation agreement where they state their desire what would happen if the relationship ends. The problem with these agreements is that they are not yet addressed in court and the outcome is therefore not certain. The most obvious advantage for the individual are the costs, cohabitation doesn’t cost anything. The opportunity of living together without any legal consequences if the relationship fails can also be considered as both an advantage as a disadvantage. For the individual the legal recognition would be a solution for many of the problems which arise in case of separation or the death of a cohabitant. Problem areas:
Proprietary claims now have to be resolved using complex remedies, and there are many problems involving the participation of ownership when there is no legal document constructed which deals with the ending of the relationship. The courts may only make orders based on a determination of shares which have been acquired in the property in circumstances where the legal rules of trusts or proprietary estoppel apply. The courts view only the financial data, and not if a woman or man stays at home for 30 years and takes care of the household and puts away their career. There is however a significant development as seen in the case Jones V Kernott1. For now the court has no power to make any orders for maintenance or the ongoing financial support for the ex-partner. When there would be a legal recognition this would give a legal base to grant the courts power in this cases. But we don’t have to forget that every advantage has a disadvantage, there are couples who live together just for the reasons I have just discussed. As long as there is no automatically recognition there won’t be a problem as couples can still choose for their independence (financial and otherwise) Unmarried partners have no automatic inheritance rights over their partner's assets on death. In some circumstances, a surviving cohabitant may be able to make a claim, under family provision legislation, against the estate of their partner on his or her death, but in general a cohabitant is treated different as a spous. Income Support and income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance recognise that married couples, and civil partners, have a duty to maintain each other. This however does not apply for regular cohabitants. The system of contributory benefits does not recognise unmarried couples, or same-sex couples not in a civil partnership. So, for example, unmarried partners and same-sex couples who have not registered a civil partnership would not be entitled to Bereavement Benefits. In the case of taxation, the cohabitants are treated individually. This can be an advantage for some and a disadvantage for others, it will depend on their personal situation. In order of state retirement pensions a cohabitant cannot rely upon their former partner's contributions, whereas a spous or a civil partner can do so. For a Pension Credit, if two people are treated as a couple, the resources of both are added together and may be taken into account in assessing entitlement. Two cohabitants are treated as a couple if they are considered to live together and share their lives in the same way as if they were married or civil partners. For occupational and...
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