This is clear from the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1973. Pursuant to Section 23 of the said Act, the Court may make several orders that relate to income, capital and property. It may order the payment of periodical payments by either party to the other, or it may also issue an order for the payment of lump sums. an order that either party to the marriage shall pay to the other such lump sum or sums as may be so specified. A petition for ancillary relief, may likewise be made, which is an order for maintenance pending suit pursuant to 2.53 of The Family Proceeding Rules 1991. It must be made clear that though a divorce terminates a marriage, it does not terminate the relations of the spouse to each other, in the sense that the court may validly order one spouse to financially support the other, particularly if there is a disparity in financial resources.
Unfortunately, while a 22-year-old may in theory avail of such legal remedies after a one-week marriage to a 65-year-old, an individual who has been in a long-term relationship and cohabitation with another may find herself without any means of redress after the relationship breaks down and the cohabitation is dissolved. This tragedy is a reality, in light of the marked increase in the number of couples who, for some reason or another, choose not to get married. This problem must be seen without the lenses or romantic mythology (Barker, 2006). According to Lord Justice Waite:
Unmarried cohabitation between heterosexuals developed strikingly in scale to the point that today (according to figures helpfully supplied by the Family Policies Study Centre) 25% of all women aged between 18 and 49 are unmarried cohabitants, and in the age group most likely to cohabit (women in their late 20s and men in their late 30s) over one third of the population now cohabits. As it became more common, cohabitation lost the secretiveness with which it had sometimes been concealed by those who felt the need to give the appearances of marriage (through change of surname by deed poll for example) to their relationship.
Indeed, we see how attitudes towards marriage are fast changing and how the courts and the judiciary are slowly following suit. The use of the words "husband" and "wife" are slowly giving way to "partner" which is increasingly gaining currency, in light of the plethora of cohabiting relationships and even homosexual partnerships. There is a growing sensitivity to the notion that marriage is not the more superior option, but rather simply an option in a wide gamut of available options.
While it is valid to argue that the intent of the law is to give premium to the institution of marriage, and it is the role of the law to reinforce and not undermine such institution, there is an equally compelling necessity to protect the right to choice of an individual and to allow him or her means of redress. Particularly in a situation when one party is more vulnerable than the other -- and this is often the case in a domestic partnership (whether marriage or cohabitation) that results in an offspring, for one partner is often left at home to take care of the child and is thus unable to make quantifiable economic contributions