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Surprisingly Almost Half Of Us Still Believe That Common Law Marriage Exists

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

The British Social Attitude Survey discovered that 46% of all people in England and Wales believe that living together forms a “common law marriage”, conveying the same rights as legally married couples.

The findings were reported by The National Centre for Social Research and this percentage of people incorrectly believing this remains largely unchanged for the past 15 years.

Ed Rawlins, Partner and Head of the Family team says: “Such a finding is very concerning.  It would suggest that there are many people in a cohabiting relationship not properly protecting their interests as a result of this misconception.  The reality is that merely living together does not create a “common law marriage” or rights akin to legally married couples.  It is a complex area of law which can be a mine field to navigate when a relationship breaks down.  It is therefore vitally important that if you are considering moving in with your partner that you seek legal advice.  Whilst having a Cohabitation Agreement isn’t romantic, it could save a lot of stress and expense later on”.

Families living together outside of marriage account for the fastest growing households, but people’s attitudes have not developed with this.  The other matter that is often overlooked is what happens if one of the couple were to die?  Having a Will prepared should form part of your relationship planning.

(The question regarding ‘common law’ marriage was commissioned by the University of Exeter and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council).

At Wilson Browne we can look after all of your legal planning needs.  If you would like further information about any of these issues please contact our Specialist Team


Edward Rawlins


Edward Rawlins


Ed has over 20 years experience as a specialist advising on situations arising from the breakdown in relationships (marriage, civil partnerships and cohabitation) in respect of both children, finances and business assets. He is a member of Resolution and a Law Society Accredited Family Mediator.