Unusually - I should point out - I am going to be accused of being unfashionable and not being my normal, liberal, self!
But the Private Members Bill in the House of Lords to give cohabiting couples (people who are living together, not married) similar rights to those who are married seems to me to be yet another attack on British marriage, an institution already with an appalling record especially when seen against most of the rest of the world.
It started when married couples tax allowance was removed. In some cases those living together got more tax allowance than if married. Now it seems we are on a process of making ending a non-married relationship harder and giving rights to maintenance similar, albeit reduced, to marriage and divorce. The way these things work is that rights inexorably increase. There will soon be no apparent difference between marriage and living together (which by the way if you haven’t noticed, you tend to do when you are married).
In saying this I am arguing against the views of Resolution, an association of lawyers, of which we are members, which campaigns for more sensitive treatment of the divorce process by the legal establishment. Don’t get me wrong, the situation of a woman who has lived with a man for 10 years and when they stop living together is entitled to nothing from the house is madness. But surely, education before people live together (or marry for that matter) is the best way forward. It is easy to prepare a living together agreement.
A financial settlement on divorce can sometimes be a long and costly matter, I hope people ending just living together can be spared this.
But should we be all that sympathetic, beyond ensuring general safety and avoidance of poverty? My view is:
1. Marry, commit and you get legal rights if you split up
2. Don’t marry, split up, no rights. You choose.
Or, as my old mother used to tell me “You’ve made your bed lad, you lie on it”!