News & Updates


12th December 2022


A leading family law solicitor has welcomed new guidance for cohabiting couples in Scotland which will entitle partners to financial support in the event of separation.

Tom Quail, head of the family law team at Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie, believes the recommendations made by the Scottish Law Commission in its latest report will simplify the law while offering a broader range of outcomes for unmarried couples whose relationships break down.

Tom, who specialises in areas including divorce, adoption, and custody arrangements, commented following the publication of the Scottish Law Commission’s report on cohabitation, which makes a series of suggestions to improve and update the law.

Tom said: “This area of the law has long been criticised for being outdated, overly complicated, and unrepresentative of the growing numbers of couples in Scotland who choose not to get married, so this report and its recommendations are very welcome.

“I think the key takeaways from the report are, firstly, that parties in an unmarried, cohabiting couple could be required to provide short-term financial support for former partners, and that a clearer formula is required for judges to apply to calculate levels of financial support.

“At present, the law around financial support for cohabiting couples is unclear, and this report reinforces how important it is to have clear guidance enshrined in law.”

Now the report has been published, the recommendations will go to the Scottish Parliament before the Bill is updated, which could take until 2025.

Tom continued: “In some countries such as Australia and New Zealand, couples who are cohabitants largely experience the same legal rights as married couples if they have lived together for a certain period of time, and many expected the Scottish Law Commission to advise a similar approach to be taken in Scotland.

“However, there are plenty of couples who make the choice not to marry, and it’s important for the law to recognise their decision to do so as much as those who choose to get married. If the law makes the rights the same for unmarried couples, they are effectively eliminating those couples’ choices to be unmarried.

“I welcome these findings and believe updated law in this area is vital to better represent how people are living in the modern world.”

For more information on WJM’s family law team please visit

The information contained in this newsletter is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of relevant law and practice as at December 2022. Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP cannot be held responsible for any action taken or not taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be taken on any individual matter. Transmissions to or from our email system and calls to or from our offices may be monitored and/or recorded for regulatory purposes. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: 302 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5RZ. A limited liability partnership registered in Scotland, number SO 300336.