This article examines the development of statutory regulation of extra-marital cohabitation. It focuses on the private law status of heterosexual relationships in particular West-European countries, although links with same-sex partnerships and comparisons between common law jurisdictions necessitate somewhat broader treatment. The objective is to analyse determinants of legislation, rather than provide a comprehensive account of West-European cohabitation laws. Demographic trends, legal tradition and family ideology provide inadequate explanations for responses in this area. A comparison of the Dutch registered partnership model and French PACS establishes the influence of political culture on legislation and provides a basis for analysis of the future development of legal policy
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