The myth of common law marriage

Despite the fact that cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK, with approximately 3.3 million in 2016, cohabiting parties are not afforded the same legal rights against each other as married people, including in relation to maintenance, property ownership and pensions.

There is indeed no such thing as “common law husband/wife”.

It is, therefore, concerning that a recent YouGov survey found that more than a third of cohabitees believed that they have the same legal rights as their married counterparts, or did not know their legal rights.

It is quite possible that a person could find themselves with no financial provision following a lengthy cohabiting relationship. Equally, someone who has made the sole or main financial contribution towards a property could find themselves having to pay their former cohabitee half of the equity depending upon the way the property is owned by them.

This lack of public awareness further highlights the need for a change in the law relating to the rights and responsibilities of cohabiting couples but no law change is on the horizon.

Our specialist Family lawyers can advise cohabitees as to how to best protect their legal position, including drawing up cohabitation agreements and advising how property should be owned. 

For more information, please contact our Family team who would be happy to advise you.

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