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21 November 2019

Cohabitee Awareness Week

There is no such thing as a common law marriage.

There is also no such thing as a common law husband or wife. Current cohabitation law means it is possible for a couple to live together for decades, to have children together and then to walk away when the relationship breaks down without taking any responsibility for their former partner.

Cohabiting couples are ever more common place with more than one in five being unmarried. Millions of people cohabit without realising the legal implications of not being married. It is often assumed, after a period of cohabitation, rights similar to married couples are acquired but this is not the case.

As society has changed, the law has been left behind and is now woefully lacking as far as cohabitees are concerned. For instance if one party dies during their relationship, the survivor is not automatically entitled to anything from the deceased’s estate. Only if the parties owned property jointly together or the deceased left a gift in their Will to the surviving party will they be entitled automatically to any financial monies or assets. If there is no Will and no joint asset the surviving partner may have to bring a legal claim to try to recover any money or assets they believed they were entitled to share in.

Other ways Cohabitees lose out

  1. Married couples need to go to Court to divorce when they part. Cohabitees can simply separate and live away from one another. No legal steps need to be taken.
  2. Cohabitees have no legal obligations to one another financially i.e. to provide maintenance or to share pension assets. Married partners are legally obliged to financially support each other and share in the assets acquired during the marriage.
  3. If you cohabit with a partner who rents the family home in their sole name on the relationship breakdown there are no rights to remain living at the property. Married couples are protected as they remain entitled to occupy the former family home under the Matrimonial Homes Act.
  4. A former cohabitee cannot make claims for maintenance for themselves even if they are caring for their former partner’s children. The only claim that can be made are on the children’s behalf save for child maintenance.

If you are currently cohabiting and have no plans in the future to marry you may like to take legal advice with regard to your financial position in the unfortunate event that your relationship breaks down. A specialist family lawyer will be able to advise you how to protect yourself and your family for the future.

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