Time for English cohabitation law to come into the 21st century

July 26 2014

"As the proportion of unmarried couples living together continues to rise isn’t it time for cohabiting couples to be given the same legal rights as marries ones?"

Kate Brooks
Divorce & family solicitor, Market Harborough


A well crafted article by Kate Brooks concerning matters of money post separation, but what of matters of child contact? There is nothing in place to protect a 'child's right to contact', and yet increasing obstacles are being laid down to prevent it, often on whim. Cafcass is an obvious example of such.

What is missing is a post separation parenting framework, whereby separating parents understand that they continue to share responsibility of parenting for life; and guidelines setting out the norms of quantum and frequency of time to ensure that the child's right is both protected, and enforceable in Law.

In its absence, the Children Act has fundamentally failed the interests of children in separating families - and ramifications of this systemic failure are set out in a recent Centre for Social Justice Report declaring that Britain is now World leader in family breakdown.

Here in the UK, we need to rapidly get away from the concept that "using a child to get back at the ex" is considered the social norm, and adopt the mantra of continued shared parenting and shared responsibilities. Without it we remain decades behind other countries already doing this now.

Lawmakers could play a vital role in initiating this important social change, simply by enshrining in Law the concept of continued post separation parenting; including the norms of quantum and frequency of how a child's time is to be apportioned in the median case; based on what 'good enough' parents will agree. (Although 'shared' responsibility may not mean equal time).

This should perhaps include a greater emphasis on early professional therapeutic intervention to help parents considering separation to rescue their relationships; or, to properly prepare them for a different life role of sharing parenting responsibilities following separation.

What we can certainly do without is a continuance of the mantra that a 'child's best interests are served by needless child-parent severance' - following years needlessly manufacturing one parent families by Institutions that have, and continue to, fail the 'best interests of the child' on a massive scale.

Kenneth Lane
Contact Matters