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Family lawyers demand reform of cohabitation and civil partnership laws

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The reports that solicitors have witnessed an 'explosion' in the number of unmarried couples seeking advice on relationship breakdown in recent months.

Vanessa Lloyd Platt, founder of London firm Lloyd Platt & Co, attributes the increase to the fragile economy. She said: 'Struggling relationships are ending sooner than they otherwise might, due to the economic climate, particularly where one partner owns the home in which they live.

'People need to release the capital from their homes in order to live, especially if they have been made redundant or face the prospect of losing their job,' she added.

Gianna Lisiecki, acting head of family law at Manchester firm JMW, agrees there has been 'a definite increase in the number of cohabitation disputes in recent months'.

'People are under financial strain, which can place pressure on their relationship and as a consequence causes some relationships to breakdown,' she said.

Caroline Falkus, partner and collaborative lawyer at north London firm Bross Bennett, believes things could get worse before they get better, particularly as the public sector spending cuts are not expected to bite until next year.

Both Falkus and Lloyd Platt say the current law in relation to cohabitees is too 'complex' and 'outdated'. Lloyd Platt wants urgent reform because she believes current rules disadvantage partners who give up their career to take care of children, and should be brought in line with the law applied to married people and same sex couples in civil partnerships.

Falkus agrees and said: 'Relying on ancient trust law to unpick the threads of a loving relationship over many years is clearly ridiculous,' she said, and called for civil partnerships to be extended to heterosexual couples.

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