A leading judge has suggested that cohabiting couples in England and Wales should enjoy legal protection as they do in Scotland.
Baroness Hale of Richmond, a Supreme Court Justice, was presiding over a case in which a Scottish man was ordered to pay his former live-in partner £40,000 after their relationship had broken down.
In Scotland, co-habiting couples received a right to be compensated for contributions to the relationship home as part of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006.
The law means that financial disadvantage can be recompensed providing a claim is made within 12 months of the end of the cohabitation, regardless of how long the relationship lasted.
The effect of the law in Scotland is that if a party is financially disadvantaged by moving in with their partner, or the partner is financially enriched, the court is able to redress the balance.
The case in which Baroness Hale was presiding provides a good example and one which she believes the English Parliament would do well to note.
Jessamine Gow sold her property so that she could move into a flat owned by her new partner, Angus Grant. Some of the proceeds from the sale went on personal expenses, but the remainder was put into the upkeep of the new relationship home.
The court ruled that Ms Gow had suffered an economic disadvantage from the relationship as her property would have been worth more now than when she sold it. Mr Grant was ordered to pay £40,000 to Ms Gow to redress the balance, a sum calculated from the rise in value of Ms Gow's former apartment.
Speaking out in favour of the law, Baroness Hale said that English and Welsh cohabiting couples should benefit similarly.
"It does not impose upon unmarried couples the responsibilities of marriage but redresses the gains and losses flowing from their relationship," she stated in her speech.
The Law Commission has made recommendations for a similar law in England and Wales but plans to amend the law have been shelved by the coalition, meaning that cohabiting couples south of the border have no similar legal protection at present.
Unmarried couples should get more rights, says judge (The Telegraph)