The law for cohabiting couples can be complex, particularly where the property is only owned by one of them. Law reform in relation to this area has been on the cards for a number of years, but reform hasn’t yet made it beyond the pipeline.
It is clear that there continues to be the misconception of ‘common-law marriage rights’, which will often mean that legal advice, is not sought, as people assume that they are protected. The sad reality is; they often are not.
- Surveys were recently conducted by Resolution (First for Family Law), which revealed:
- Two in three cohabitants surveyed were unaware that they did not have rights derived from common-law marriage.
- In the UK today, one family in five is cohabiting, and around 50% of cohabiting couples have dependant children.
Nearly all of Resolution members surveyed reported having worked with a cohabiting partner they were unable to help due to lack of legal protections and two in three surveyed reported women losing out more than men on this issue.
Sally Robinson, Partner in our Family Team, comments “it is so important for those who are about to cohabit, or are already co-habiting, to seek legal advice from a specialist. Until such time that the law is reformed, there are some fairly simple measures that can be put in place to avoid costly and extensive litigation later on in the event the relationship doesn’t work out. There is no such thing as a ‘common-law husband or wife’, so it’s important that protection is put in place, especially for the more vulnerable partner”.
It is appreciated that signing an agreement at the commencement or during cohabitation stating what will happen in the event the relationship breaks down is not exactly romantic, however, it could save you a big headache later on.