Financial & Legal News

Common Law Marriage is a Myth

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Co habiting couples make up the fastest growing family type in this country but unfortunately the law as it stands doesn’t recognise these couples in the same way as those who are married or in a civil partnership.

This is Resolutions’ Cohabitation Awareness Week.  A time when Resolution will focus their efforts on the need for legal reform for cohabiting couples.  Under the current law, and despite the myth of common law marriage, it is possible to live with someone, and have children together, but simply walk away without having responsibility for a former partner when a relationship breaks down.

Emma Kendall, Family Law Solicitor explains, “If you and your partner are cohabiting you might be surprised to know that you have very little legal protection if you break up.”

Nearly half of the adults in England and Wales mistakenly think that couples acquire common law marriage rights when they live together or co parent.  The Cohabitation Awareness week will raise the need for cohabiting couples to have basic rights when they separate.

Emma, a Resolution accredited Specialist Solicitor says, “There is no such thing as common law husband or wife – this is just a myth.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived together for years or have children. You are not legally recognised as a couple which makes it very difficult to claim a share in the family home or your partner’s finances, if you should ever split up.”

For couples who live together it can seem normal for one partner to give up work to care for children or elderly relatives or to make verbal agreements about who pays the mortgage or who pays household bills.  Without having a formal agreement in place, it is very difficult to claim a share in the family home or your partners finances on separation.

Emma adds, “We would welcome reform in this area as sadly the weaker party is often left in a financially vulnerable position.”


She sets out her advice to cohabiting couples is as follows:-

  • Be proactive 
  • Seek legal advice from the outset
  • Protect your rights as best as possible
  • Have a Cohabitation Agreement/ Declaration of Trust (prior to living together) or Separation Agreement if you have separated

    Resolution is campaigning on behalf of cohabitating couples to have basic rights at least if they should separate or a partner dies.  It is working to raise awareness of this issue so that cohabiting couples can take measures to protect themselves should this situation arise.

    If you need further advice on Cohabiting please contact our Family Law Team.

    We provide specialist Family Law services across Oldham and Saddleworth.  To arrange a no obligation consultation call us on 0161 785 3500.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

Written by Emma Kendall


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