Pay-out for woman in first cohabitation case

An unmarried mother has been awarded £14,460 from her former partner in a ground-breaking legal case using new cohabitation laws.

The new laws are part of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006. They form a limited framework within which cohabitants whose relationship breaks down can pursue financial claims against one another.

Plans to introduce similar laws in England and Wales were put on hold earlier this year in order to evaluate the operation of the Scottish laws.

The mother in the case, heard by the Court of Session in Edinburgh, had claimed an award of £70,000 to cover the “economic disadvantages” she had suffered when she gave up full-time employment to look after the couple’s children.

The judge said that because her cohabiting partner had paid the mortgage on her house and extensive renovations had increased the value of the home, the figures evened out.

However, he said that “the economic burden of looking after the children has to be shared fairly”, and ordered her former partner to pay £14,460 towards the cost of childcare for the couple’s children before and after school.

The judgment is likely to influence future cases involving cohabitants whose relationships have broken down.

There are approximately 2.3 million cohabiting couples in the UK. According to 2004 statistics, 1.4 million children are dependent on a cohabiting couple. Cohabitants are statistically far more likely to separate than married couples.

Critics of proposals to give rights to cohabiting couples in England and Wales say that such a move would undermine marriage and could trigger a compensation boom.