Is there such a thing as a ‘Common Law Marriage’?

Six out of every ten couples who live together believe that they have the same protection as married couples if they split up. Although the terms ‘common-law husband/wife’ is often used to describe a couple who live together, these relationships do not actually have any formal legal recognition. The reality is that cohabiting couples, where people are living with their partner but are not married or in a civil partnership, have virtually no legal rights in the event of death or breakdown of a relationship. This is the case no matter how long the
relationship has lasted. Unmarried partners have no automatic claim on their partner’s assets, unlike in a divorce, and this is true no matter how long the relationship lasts. This can lead to injustice and hardship in many cases.

In order to protect yourself you should consider:

  • Entering into a Cohabitation Agreement to seek to give legal effect to the relationship. This is a legal document which may be enforced by the court provided it is properly executed, you have both been honest about your finances and have each obtained separate legal advice upon its terms
  • Updating any Will to make provision for each other and any children of the relationship
  • Enter into a Deed of Trust setting out how beneficial interests in any jointly owned property are to be held
  • Keep pension and life insurance nominations under review

For further information about ‘Common Law Marriage’ please contact our Family team.

Cath Porter

Cath Porter

Partner and Head of Family Law

01202 692448

01202 482202

01202 823308

01202 881454

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