The Law Society of Scotland has called for changes to be made to Scotland’s cohabitation laws, calling them ‘problematic and disadvantageous’. In a new paper titled Rights of Cohabitants, attention is drawn to problems suffered by grieving partners who, under the current legislation, must make an application to the court for a share in their partner’s estate if they die without leaving a Will.
In recent decades, the number of couples cohabiting in Scotland has increased significantly. To reflect this, the Scottish Government passed legislation in the form of The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 to offer these couples were offered some of the same protections afforded to married couples when they separate, or when one of them dies.
Figures for 2011 showed that there were 237,000 cohabiting couples in Scotland. In cases where cohabitation ends with separation, the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 stipulates that a cohabitant must make an application within one year. The timeframe for cohabitants whose partner has died requires applications to be made within only six months.
Earlier research showed that 76 per cent of solicitors believed that time limits are a problematic area of the Act. In its new report, the Law Society proposes linking the time limit for claims following the death of a partner to the granting of confirmation, giving cohabitants an extended period in which to submit their application to the court. In addition, the paper calls for a more extensive review of the provisions relating to cohabitation and highlights several other deficiencies relating to this area of the law.