27th November 2017

Cohabitation Awareness

Be aware – there is no such thing as common law husband and wife!

Some of the most difficult cases which come across my desk involve unmarried couples, who have been living happily together, but who suddenly find themselves plunged into the unknown when their relationship breaks down. It is often only then that they discover, too late, that there is no such thing as a common law marriage, and no marriage means no rights.

Many unmarried people believe that, on separation, there is an ongoing obligation for one partner to support the other, that each of them automatically acquires an interest in the family home and in the other’s assets and that if they cannot agree the financial arrangements, the Court has the power to decide what is fair. However although there are some circumstances where a share in the family home can be acquired and protected and ways in which a parent with care of children can receive some financial support from the other parent, in general there are no such rights for unmarried couples.

Whilst there are many who support a change in the law to reflect our swiftly evolving society, unless and until that happens, it is crucial that couples who decide not to marry, make that decision knowing how limited their rights are. Only then can they avoid the risk of finding out too late how little protection is actually available to them.