The most senior family court judge in England and Wales says the law governing the rights of people who live together but are not married is in desperate need of reform.
Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court, said the problem of cohabitants’ rights is “long-running”.
He outlined his thoughts during a lecture at the University of Edinburgh Law School.
“If a marriage or civil partnership terminates by divorce or dissolution, the court has power to redistribute the assets between the parties,” he said.
“None of this applies to cohabitants, however long the relationship has lasted and whether or not there are any children.”
The judge told students on Tuesday: “Reform is desperately needed. The Law Commission has recommended reform. Thus far Governments have failed to act.”
He added: “Reform is inevitable. It is inconceivable that society will not in due course have righted this injustice, but how many more women are to be condemned to injustice while our masters delay, constantly persuading themselves, presumably, that the time is not yet ripe?”
Sir James said divorce law was also “very badly in need of reform” and added: “The law has been unchanged since 1969.”
He said reform of the law governing “financial relief” following divorce was also “not merely necessary but inevitable”.