The Law Commission is likely to recommend that unmarried couples should get financial rights against each other if they have a child or if they have lived together for 2 years or more.

The financial rights are unlikely to be as generous as those for married couples and it is likely they will recommend that unmarried couples can opt out of this new legislation.

If there is to be a new law, it is unlikely to come in before 2009 at the earliest. All unmarried couples need to ensure that they clarify their financial relationships until the law changes.

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Why is it 'likely' that the Law Commission will recommend that unmarried couples can opt out? Because otherwise they would, in effect, be making marriage (albeit a secular civil version at least) compulsory, and that would be absurd.

What would make sense is a contract that comes into force if and when their are children which would not permit an opt out. However it should be possible for a third part to take over as party to the contract with the agreement of one of the other two or in the case of the demise of one.

A similar law could apply to same-sex cohabiting couples.