Should cohabitants have the same legal rights as married couples upon relationship breakdown?
That was the hotly contested topic of a debate recently organised by the ‘Good Divorce Group’ in Norwich. Lawyers from around the county took their seats to watch this very topical debate between Jane Anderson, our senior partner/Lucy Steele from BBL Family Law (a former Cozens-Hardy LLP employee) and Nick Stone from Mills & Reeve /Grace Nicholls a barrister from East Anglian Chambers. Both teams were poised and ready to fiercely fight their corner…
Then disaster struck! Both sides realised they had prepared to debate the same point of view and therefore were in total agreement with each other… er hum, not the heated debate everyone had quite expected.
Fortunately, Jane and Nick stepped up to the podium and decided to team together to ‘think on their feet’ to support the opposite of what they had prepared for... with great success!
Whilst the twist of the debate was certainly comical, the question upon which the debate was based is highly important. With cohabitants being statistically the fastest growing family type over the last 20 years, it is a worry how many cohabitants don’t realise that if their relationship breaks down they are not afforded the same protection as married couples.
The debate lived up to, and exceeded, expectations and was certainly well informative of the issues that surround the rights (or lack of) for cohabitants. The outcome? The only aspect of the night that could have been predicated - the lawyers could not agree!
There is a balance to be struck between cohabitants having no rights that will protect them upon relationship breakdown and cohabitants being forced to have the same rights as married couples, even if they do not wish to do so. Where the balance will lay, is yet to be seen.
I very much look forward to the next debate I attend, and I hope that it too proves just as entertaining and informative.
Keep an eye on this Cozens-Hardy LLP news section and we will keep you informed of any updates on this topic.