Understanding co-habitation: A critical study of the living Together as Husband and Wife Rule in UK Social Security Law

12 May 2009

Increasing numbers of couples live together and have children without being married. Those who argue for greater protection for financially vulnerable cohabitants invoke evidence that suggests that modern cohabitations are often just like marriages and should be treated as such by law. In social security legislation, the cohabitation or living together as husband and wife rule treats cohabiting couples who claim means-tested benefits as if they are married. However, this may not provide protection for financially vulnerable cohabitants who are not necessarily in the same circumstances as married couples. Drawing on research with men and women who have had relevant personal experience of ‘the cohabitation rule’, this briefing identifies problems with its underlying assumptions about unmarried couples’ relationships and their financial support obligations to each other.