Family Law in a European Perspective
Edited by Jens M. Scherpe
Chapter 3: Unmarried cohabitation in a European perspective
Such is the current diversity of legally recognised family forms across Europe and beyond that it is necessary before embarking on any survey of this area to define the scope of the inquiry. Contemporary debates regarding family law and policy in the regulation of relationships between adults are dominated by two distinct but connected issues: (i) the treatment of same-sex couples; and (ii) the treatment of couples who have not formalised their relationship. The nature of the debate in relation to (ii) is complicated by the fact that a number of jurisdictions now allow at least some couples to formalise their relationships in institutions other than ‘marriage’: the advent of various schemes of registered partnership or other civil union (to use relatively neutral terminology) has resulted in a proliferation of formalised family forms and so an increasingly complex set of options for family regulation. This growth of new legal institutions has in large part been driven by issue (i): a concern to respond to the legal predicament of same-sex couples who are in most jurisdictions (for the time being at least) unable to formalise their relationship through marriage, traditionally defined. Meanwhile, others are concerned about the situation of opposite-sex couples (in particular) who have not married and so of individuals who are not subject to, and protected by, the regime of legal duties and rights attendant on that institution.
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