A new cohabitation act has been introduced today, replacing the 2017 laws and providing more rights and protection for couples that seek legal recognition without being married or civil union.
The improved equality laws seek to address a number of difficulties couples found with the previous act, setting clear parameters about what it means to be recognised as a co-habitant, how one can enter a public contract of cohabitation as well as the regulation of community of assets.
Those registered under the previous cohabitation act will still be recognised as such. Speaking in a press conference today, Minister of Justice Edward Zammit Lewis said that around 4,000 couples are currently living in co-habitation.
What is the Cohabitation Act?
The 2017 co-habitation act gave couples legal recognition and the same rights granted to a person who is married or in a civil union in terms of labour and family rights. The law ensures social rights and benefits for cohabitees, including the right to apply for widow’s pensions, foster care, children’s allowance, medical decisions for their partner and so on.
What’s different in the 2020 Cohabitation Act?
The latest replacement act streamlines the process of applying for cohabitation, outlines their rights better and replaces the three previous models by means of a public deed.
How do you apply?
To enter a public deed of cohabitation, the couple must meet with a notary and present their identification documents and Free Status Certificate, which certifies that no act of marriage or Civil Union has been registered during a specified period of time for each applicant.
The couple declares that there is nothing precluding them from entering the cohabitation and must state whether they have been in a previous public deed of cohabitation.
They must then choose whether they wish to apply the community of assets or otherwise, and the notary will then explain the effects of the public deed of cohabitation, publish it and enrol the public deed in the Public Registry within 20 days, which would grant state recognition for cohabitation.
Parliamentary Secretary For Reforms and Equality Rosianne Cutajar highlighted progress in equality for couples in Malta who previously received prejudice for their relationships.
“Today, we no longer have that form of prejudice; today we have a law which gives such families the rights which are very similar to those who are married or have a civil union couples,” she said.