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Colin Mitchell

Colin Mitchell

Family Solicitor & Collaborative Family Lawyer

Cohabitation Awareness Week

Myth Busting: “Common Law Marriage” means nothing in law!

This is the important message which the Harold G Walker Family Team wants to spread in support of Cohabitation Awareness Week, which is being run by Resolution, the UK’s leading family lawyers organisation.

There are about 3.3 million unmarried couples currently living together in the UK. That is about 1 family in 5, and this is also the fastest growing family type. There are many reasons for choosing not to get married, but many unmarried couples do not realise that they are leaving themselves in a precarious financial position.

This is because many of these couples mistakenly believe that if a couple lives together for long enough, or after they have had children together, that they will each automatically have the same legal rights and responsibilities as a married couple if they later split up or one of them dies without leaving a Will.

Whilst unmarried parents do have legal and financial obligations towards any child they have together, the same does not apply between the parents themselves. For example, if one parent, often the mother, has given up or reduced work to raise their child, that parent is not entitled to any financial support from their partner to make up for this sacrifice. This means that the child’s primary carer could be left with no financial security, without a home and with no access to pension or savings.

Therefore, the steps which a cohabiting couple can take to guard themselves against these problems (other than getting married) include:

• Make a Cohabitation Agreement – This can record the couple’s intentions concerning property and other financial support for their children if they separate.

• Make a Declaration of Trust – This records how the equity in a property, such as  the family home, should be shared between a couple even if their financial contributions to the purchase or mortgage payments are not equal.

• Make a Will – This can record how financial support will be provided to the survivor on a death their partner.

For further information and to arrange an initial free half hour meeting with one of our specialist family lawyers, please contact our Family Team by calling any of Harold G Walker’s offices.