May 22, 2020

Bereavement damages – a step forward for cohabitees?

By Debra Jackson – family law solicitor and specialist in cohabitation cases 

A recent government announcement to reform laws to enable partners who have lived together for at least two years to claim bereavement damages – is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

It follows a Court of Appeal decision in 2017 that the current law – which does not entitle an unmarried partner or cohabitee to make a claim – was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Currently set at £12,980, the statutory damages award is paid in certain circumstances following a death caused by someone else’s wrongful act or omission.

Jones Myers has been at the forefront of a campaign led by Resolution (the association of family lawyers), to encourage the government to extend the rights enjoyed by married couples – or those in a civil partnership – to those who choose to live together.

While this new development recognises that society has changed dramatically since previous legislation from the 1970s, it is important to remember that nothing has yet changed to protect those couples should they choose to separate.

Jones Myers founder, Peter Jones, has recently written about the importance of Living Together Agreements, known as cohabitation agreements, for those planning to move in together.

If you are already living together, you can still draw up an agreement, recording how you would wish your finances to be dealt with should you separate. It is also important to prepare Wills providing for one another, so your estate is dealt with as you would wish.

Although you may be in a deeply committed relationship, and intend to spend your lives together, if you do split up from your partner, you should consult a qualified lawyer to ensure you understand your rights and entitlements.  

Unlike married couples or those in civil partnerships whose relationships break down, your  entitlements will not necessarily enable you to share your partner’s pension, savings, or property.

Jones Myers will continue to campaign for a change in the law to fully protect the 3.4 million or so people living with their long term partners. 

In the meantime, please do get in touch if you are living with a partner or planning to do so, or you feel that your relationship has run its course, and we would be happy to advise and assist you.

For queries on cohabitation agreements, Call Debra and our experienced family lawyers at Leeds on 0113 246 0055, Harrogate on 01423 276104, or York on 01904 202550. All calls are redirected to our staff working remotely. Visit, email or tweet us @helpwithdivorce