Unmarried couples’ rights: a myth?

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A survey undertaken by family law organisation, Resolution, has found that millions of cohabiting couples wrongly believe that they’re entitled to legal protection when they split up, as they’re under ‘common law marriage’.

Common law marriage, however, is a myth and hasn’t existed for centuries. The survey commissioned by Resolution highlights the lack of knowledge around legal protection for cohabiting couples, with 35% of those asked believing they have the same rights as married couples.

A call has been made by influential organisations such as the Law Society for the law to become clearer for unmarried cohabiting couples.

As the fastest growing family type in the UK, cohabiting couples doubled from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2017, which equates to around 17.5% of families.

Unmarried couples’ legal rights

As it stands, cohabiting couples have no legal rights to property or assets when they split up, and in the longer run, this can prove especially difficult for couples who’ve been together for a considerable amount of time.

Many unmarried cohabiting couples are unaware that they can create a cohabitation agreement at any time in their relationship. Having this agreement can protect both parties when deciding how they’ll split their assets.

The agreement essentially lists what each person has brought to the relationship. However unromantic this may sound, it will help clarify each person’s position should a relationship end.

Why get a cohabitation agreement?

Getting a formal cohabitation agreement into place when you move in together may be the last thing on your mind, but if you own assets together, a cohabitation agreement is a sensible move.

You can put anything into your cohabitation agreement, including how you’ll divide property and other possessions as well as outlining both of your financial obligations. If you have children, having a cohabitation agreement can make sure they are protected both legally and financially.

A cohabitation agreement is only legally binding when drawn up as a deed. If you have to attend court for any reason, they will follow the agreement assuming it’s fair and both parties were honest about their financial situation when they created it.

Further information

A cohabitation agreement can be beneficial no matter your age and however longstanding your relationship. Contact one of our specialist family solicitors for more information on 0117 325 2929 or via our 
online contact form.


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