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Resolution welcomes the government's civil partnership announcement

Basic legal rights urgently needed for cohabiting couples

Resolution has welcomed Theresa May's announcement of plans to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples.

Graeme Fraser, Chair of Resolution's Cohabitation Committee, said:

"[The] announcement is surely a victory for equality, with the extension of civil partnerships to all allowing those who do not wish to get married and their children access to the benefits of a formalised relationship. It is also a step in the right direction as it helps to bring family law in line with modern values.

"However, the continuing unresolved difficulty surrounding this issue is that two-thirds of those in cohabiting relationships are unaware that they're unprotected by 'common law marriage'. This means they are less likely to make a move to formalise their relationship through marriage or a civil partnership, because they don't realise they are at risk if they separate or if one partner dies without making a will.

"In the interest of protecting vulnerable cohabiting couples, Resolution has repeatedly called on government to urgently provide at least basic legal rights for cohabiting couples. While we welcome the introduction of opposite sex civil partnerships, more must be done to allow the justice system to recognise all unmarried family units, irrespective of any formal registration, to financially protect both the couple and any children they might have."

Alexandra Bishop, family lawyer at Kingsley Napley LLP, also noted the need for government action on cohabitation, commenting:

"Following June's Supreme Court ruling, the Government's commitment to swiftly introduce civil partnerships to heterosexual couples is a welcome move in modern law reform. However, cohabitation reform is also urgently required – the current law leaves people who choose not to marry or enter a civil partnership vulnerable particularly after children."

Frances Hughes, founding partner at Hughes Fowler Carruthers, said:

"The government's decision to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples will be welcomed by the legal profession. The announcement is not before time, gender-neutral civil partnerships having been available in the Netherlands and Belgium for almost 20 years."

For coverage on the BBC News website, click here.