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    7 March 2020

    Q&A: Cohabiting Couples

    Family Law Solicitor Sally Harris reviews some frequently asked questions relating to Cohabiting Couples and common misconceptions relating to 'Common law marriage'.

    Q. What does “common law marriage” mean and is it legally valid?

    A. Common law marriage is a term used to explain that a couple are living together as man and wife but are not actually married.  There is no such thing as common law marriage, couples are simply cohabiting.

    Q. How do the rights of married and unmarried couples differ?

    A. There is a huge difference between the legal rights of the married and unmarried couple.  A married couple have far more legal protection and can claim for financial support when separating.  That is often difficult or impossible for an unmarried couple if they do not have jointly held assets.

    Q. What is a Cohabitation Agreement and what are the benefits of unmarried couples having one?

    A Cohabitation Agreement sets out the terms on which a couple will live together.  It will list their assets at the time they move in together and will also set out what will happen if the relationship fails and they separate.

    Q. How can unmarried cohabiting couples make sure their children are protected?

    A. Married and unmarried couples have similar legal rights with regard to children.  Parents who are both mentioned on the birth certificate automatically have Parental Responsibility.  A biological parent can apply to Court if they are not on the birth certificate for Parental Responsibility.

    Q. How else can a solicitor advise cohabiting couples on protecting their assets and each other?

    A. A solicitor will generally advise couples to have a Will so that it is clear what happens to their assets on death. Jointly owned assets are often protected with a Deed of Trust if a couple have not made equal contribution to its purchase. The deed sets out each party’s share. Bespoke advice should be taken before parties commence cohabitation to ensure they are fully protected.

    If you would like to discuss another of the points raised in the Cohabiting Couples Q&A, please contact the Steeles Law family team who will be happy to help you via email using family@steeleslaw.co.uk or by calling 01603 598000. Appointments available at our Norwich, Diss or London offices.