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The Common Law Marriage Myth

There have been many occasions where clients have come in to see us believing that they had the same rights as married couples, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In light of this misconception and unequal balance of rights, Resolution (an organisation of professionals committed to constructive resolution of family disputes) embarked on a cohabitation awareness week campaign, from 27 November to 31 December 2017.

The aim was to highlight to Parliament the lack of any legal framework for the rights and responsibilities of couples who are not married, if their relationship comes to an end. The office of national statistics found in 2017 cohabiting couples were the fastest growing family type in the UK.

The purpose of Resolutions’s cohabitation awareness week was to ensure that cohabitants are aware of the limited rights if the relationship breaks down and to encourage and promote a change in law to help those couples.

If a relationship breaks down, there is no responsibility on the financially stronger party to make any form of financial provision for their former partner, however, if the parties were married, the opposite would be true.


So, what are the risks for you as an unmarried couple?

When a married couple separates, the law allows for property and finances to be divided that are fair to both. Together with any relevant provisions for the children and to provide child maintenance for a husband or wife. However, when unmarried couples separate, even if they have children together, the same rights do not apply.

If, for instance, your name is not on the property deeds, you do not have an automatic right to live in the property even if you did help to pay bills or the mortgage, you could be asked to leave your home and be left with nothing.

If you have children together, your partner will still have an obligation to support them but they would not necessarily need to support you.


So what can be done?

If you wish to stay together, it is worth taking precautions in order to protect yourself if the relationship does break down.

If marriage or a civil partnership is not an option for you, there are other ways to ensure you and your partner are protected.

At Fletcher Day we can create a cohabitation agreement between you and your partner to set your joint intentions for finances, property and arrangements for children. This is prepared once your needs and requirements have been fully discussed with our specialist family lawyers.

We can also prepare a declaration of trust to show how you want the property to be owned, especially if you the property has not been purchased equally.


If you wish to discuss how to protect yourself, or have any other Family Law query, please contact one of our Family team.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.