Common Law Marriage Myth

To mark cohabitation week in late 2017, Resolution commissioned a poll by ComRes. The poll was recently published and worryingly found:

“37% of British adults wrongly think it is true that unmarried couples who have lived together for more than 2 years benefit from what is known as “common law” marriage”.


What isn’t protected?

It seems that nearly two fifths of the British public are unaware that cohabiting couples do not enjoy the same or similar protection to that given to married couples. For example:-

  • Property law offers less protection to cohabiting couples than couples that are married.

  • Following separation, a former cohabitee has no legal right to continue living at a property where they are not the named tenant or legal owner.

  • A former cohabitee has no right to pursue maintenance (other than child maintenance via the Child Maintenance Service) or a pension sharing order on separation. 

  • An unmarried father does not automatically acquire parental responsibility in relation to any child of the family unless he is named on the birth certificate.

How can a cohabitation agreement can help?

Those who are currently cohabiting or contemplating cohabiting with their partner may benefit from obtaining legal advice (especially if one or both parties are considering purchasing a property). Parties may further benefit from entering into cohabitation agreements which not only can regulate the household financial responsibilities between parties, but more importantly can also deal with what will happen in the event that the parties’ relationship breaks down. In the long term this may not only save the parties a lot of stress but also potentially save a significant amount of money which may otherwise be spent on costly court proceedings.

At Lanyon Bowdler’s Family Department we offer a half hour appointment from £120 inclusive of VAT or an hour appointment from £180 inclusive of VAT. During such appointments we can advise parties more in depth as to their current rights and also whether a cohabitation agreement would be to their benefit