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Equal tax, legal and benefit treatment for unmarried “couples”

Comment 2nd July 2010

When it suits the Government, to save money (welfare, grants, council tax benefits etc), any possible way in which any person who can possible be made to support you will be used to bring their income and capital in to deny you benefit or funding. This is wholly irrespective of the true facts of the situaiton, the way in and arrangements under which the persons concernd do actually and wish to live and relate financially to each other, and wholly disregards the fact that such financail support cannot be legally enforced when there is no marriage or civil partnership in existence.

Yet where there is no marriage or civil partnership, there are in law no rights of inheritance or under intestacy, no rights of next of kin, no rights of support upon separation and no rights to calim several beneficial tax exemptions or other provisions. 

The law must be made equal in all areas. If marriage is to be recognised as having some different and differential effect (a big question in itself) then those who have not married (or civil partnered) should not have to be treated as if they have.

Make your minds up, please, and give equal treatment accross the board.

And if so-called "partners", persons with whom one is deemed by state officials to be living with "as if husband and wife" – or whatever the far from sufficient and satisfactory definitions are – must under benefits law support another person then let this be legally enforceable. Let them be required to pay the other person's Council Tax and other necessary bills, given them a legal right or duty to deduct expenses and add income, to have or own shared assets as a couple/household in all circumstances.

Why does this matter?

As said above, this is clearly unfair and we have two or more parallel systems and many unclear definitions in our various welfare, fiscal, insolvency and other legal processes and procedures.

Many people these days choose to live togeter to share costs, for company and companionship, to assist with household and DIY chores, to help with health-related needs and so on.  If this arrangment for whatever reason becomes "legalised" through a marriage or civil partnership ceremony, something which is wholly the choice of the persons involved, then they ahve a defined and clear legal status and rights and duties. But where that legal status has not been chosen, where it may for many reasons not be wished, at what point can the State imply or deem it, and how can it do so when there are such clear differences which come into play once such a choice has been made.

Many people are suffering great hardship because of these rules, especially under the benefits systems (although even there there are different rules depending on which benefit one may be receiving). People need clarity, and thier personal choices need respecting. If the law cannot force one person financially to support another, it is simply wrong that the State can, even if the facts of the situation are that this support will not happen and that the person concerend may therefore have no income at all on which to live. Their only choice at this point is to change their circumstances so that they are proveably and permanently living alone: a very poor and wholly unfair choice, and for some a very dangerous and unhealthy one.

If you cannot accept the difference between marriage / CP and non-marriage / non-CP then, somewhere, I feel that logically marriage can have no meaning. Yet we all hear politicians saying how important it is, and how it protects families and children. So if it does count, then let's make that difference count too: both ways.

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