Unmarried cohabitation

Authored by: Elaine E. Sutherland

Routledge Handbook of Family Law and Policy

Print publication date:  May  2014
Online publication date:  May  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415640404
eBook ISBN: 9780203796221
Adobe ISBN: 9781134447534


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As cohabitation – that is, living together in an intimate relationship without being married – has become more commonplace and more socially acceptable, legal systems have been forced to re-examine what, if any, legal consequences should attach to it. The issue is often brought into sharp focus when the relationship ends, either through separation or the death of one of the parties, but it may also be significant while the parties are together, particularly for matters like domestic abuse protection, state benefits and taxation. The diversity of couples who cohabit and their reasons for doing so present a particular challenge to legal systems and divergent responses are found around the world. That divergence is prompted by very different views about the role of the legal system in regulating intimate relationships and the debate often juxtaposes party autonomy and protection of the vulnerable.

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