英伦广角British Vision(25):同居者的权益

No ring, no vows. But no rights? Couples who live together without getting married can soon be entitled to a share of the wealth if they split up or if one partner dies. The Law Commission has published new proposals aimed at making the law fairer for cohabiting partners especially if they've lived together for a certain period or had a child. DS reports.

' and all the time I have I will share with you.'

A commitment to stay together, traditionally marriage has had a special status in British law and society, but less and less of us is choosing to exchange vows .So is the law out of touch with the way we're living our lives? Two million couples now live together without tying the knot and that's set to double in the next 20 years. But what happens when things go wrong? Most people cohabiting wrongly assumed that they have common-law rights, their property and assets will get divided as if they were legally man and wife. In fact people who live together don't have any rights and that can be painful.

The contrast couldn't be clearer. Last week, divorcee Melissa Miller, married for 2.5 years, got 5 million pounds of her ex-husband's financial fortune. But unmarried Shirley Mcgauley who lived with her partner for 10 years got nothing when he died. The courts have established the principle that wives like Melissa Miller should be rewarded for their contribution to a marriage. But the situation is very different for unmarried couples who split. When Shirley Mcgauley's partner Martin died, she suddenly found she was entitled to nothing, not even a share of the house even though she had helped / pay the mortgage. The insurance money paid on his death ,the money in their bank account and Martin's pension were all inherited by his parents.

"It's, it's the most awful thing to go through 'coz you have to deal with your grief, which you can't because you've got so many other worries. Money worries, financial worries, how you are gonna pay bills . And who is gonna listen to you? Who is gonna help you? Nobody, nobody wants to know because the law states that it's eh, next of kin, which leaves people like me basically nowhere."

Heterosexual couples now have less legal rights than gay couples who can choose to register their civil partnerships. And so the Law Commission is asking whether it's time for change. For example, should those who split be able to claim a lump sum or maintenance. And how long should they have to live together before being eligible. In other countries, such as Scotland, there is no minimum of time period and cohabitating couples enjoy similar rights to married couples. But there is a more fundamental question. Once a couple decides to commit to marriage by buying the rings and ordering the dress, it's generally accepted that they are taking on certain responsibilities and in return ,the state gives them certain rights But if a couple chooses not to bother and simply to live together, why should they expect the same benefits?

We don't feel that should be used as a means for denying basic justice for those who have not been together within a marriage relationship , but who at the end of that relationship, are otherwise going to suffer that injustice .

The Church of England was initially against any changes, but now says it accepts the proposals as there is still a distinction between cohabitees and spouses. It could take years before any changes happen. Until then the official advice to those living together is to put property in joint names and to make a will.

1.split up :separate, divide; be separated, be divided; separated, divided, parted

2.tie the knot:get married, be wed结婚

3.common-law:law which is determined by judges, method of lawmaking that began in England; unwritten law, law that is based on past legal decisions 不成文法; 习惯法

4.lump sum:total sum, inclusive total, comprehensive sum 一次付款额; 总金额

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