Misconceptions of common law cohabitation

Misconceptions of common law cohabitation

Posted on October 30, 2019 at 9am

Recent research has highlighted the fact that many people believe there are common law marriage laws protecting them and their finances should they split from their partner.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, with cohabiting couples sharing almost no legal rights should their relationship break up, compared with those protected by marriage or civil partnerships.

With cohabiting couples being the fastest growing family type, it’s important for them to ensure they are adequately protected should they split.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived together or if you have children, because you aren’t recognised legally as a couple.  This makes it very difficult to claim a share in the family home or your partner’s finances should you go your separate ways.  Furthermore, you also have less protection if one of you passes away, as Cohabitees aren’t exempt from inheritance tax like married couples are.

A report issued by the Office for National Statistics in August 2019 shows that the number of UK cohabitees has risen by 25.8 per cent since 2009 and the number of same-sex couple families has more than doubled since 2015.

It’s common for one partner to work part-time or give up work to care for children or elderly relatives or to agree verbally that one pays the mortgage and the other pays the bills. However, without a legal agreement in place, the court can’t make your ex pay maintenance to support you just because it might be fair.

Resolution, a community of family justice professionals, who work with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way are campaigning for cohabiting couples to have at least basic rights following a relationship breakdown or the death of their partner.  Until this happens, cohabitees should make sure they obtain legal advice to get agreements and wills put in place to protect them and their future.

Written by Kay Crooke – Associate Practice Director at Prosser Knowles Associates Limited.

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