The Consequences of Cohabitation
28 Pages Posted: 9 May 2015 Last revised: 28 Mar 2016
Date Written: May 8, 2015
In several British surveys, the majority of people thought that cohabitants had the same legal status as married couples. However, this could not be farther from the truth — the law treats them as nothing more than strangers, albeit often with contractual capabilities to protect themselves in the event their cohabitation ends. A minority of American states, however, have refused even contract rights to cohabitants, with Illinois leading this contingent. In late 2014, however, an Illinois appellate court dramatically diverged from the state’s well-established precedent, determining that a recent change in public policy required recognizing property consequences of cohabitation. The legal framework on cohabitation is even more dynamic in Europe, ranging from no protection to equal protection that is provided in marriage, depending on the country. This Article therefore takes a comparative approach to examining the appropriate regulation of cohabitation and whether protections should be offered to cohabitants as their number continues to grow on both sides of the ocean.
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