No such thing as common law marriage

No such thing as common law marriage

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Nearly half (46%) of adults in England and Wales  mistakenly believe that if couples live together for long enough, or have children together, they become ‘common law spouses’ and automatically obtain the same rights and obligations that they would have if they had been married or entered a Civil Partnership. So why might this be a problem?

  • It is not always clear who owns what when a relationship ends. Married couples who divorce can have their property legally divided despite whose name it might be in. Unmarried couples, without proof of ownership, do not have the same rights.
  • Parents do have financial obligations towards any children they may have whether they are married or not. However unmarried partners are not entitled to financial support for themselves, even if one partner may have given up or reduced work to raise children. This means that a person could be left with no financial security, without a home and with no access to money.
  • Unmarried partners do not have any automatic rights to inheritance. Unless specifically named in a Will, or if a Will has not been made, a cohabiting partner is not entitled to share in or make claims on their deceased partner’s estate.


Until there are changes in the law what can you do protect yourself and your family?

  • Ensure your tenancy agreement is in joint names if you are renting a property together
  • Ensure your title deeds are in joint names if you are buying a property together
  • Enter a Cohabitation Agreement. See our factsheet about Cohabitation Agreements
  • Make a Will
  • Take out life insurance

Remember, prevention is better than cure!

Our team of Cohabitation specialists can advise you on all of your options. Please contact us to discuss your own unique situation.

2 responses on “No such thing as common law marriage

  1. good evening . I am the sole owner of a 50 % shared ownership 2 bedroom apartment . the other 50 % is owned by a housing association .I have no mortgage as i bought my 50 % share in cash ( inheritance ) .In addition to that i have reasonable amount of savings plus several pensions to come in the next 5 to 10 years.If my girlfriend moves in and the bills , rent ,deeds etc stays in my name ( except council tax ) and the relationship fails in the future would she have any claims to either my property or pensions ?

    1. Dear Ian, thank you for your comment. Your partner cannot claim against your pensions unless you are married. There are circumstances where claims can potentially be made by your partner in respect of your property, for example if she were to inject capital into the property and then claim that there was an agreement or understanding that this was in return for a beneficial interest in the property. I would strongly recommend that you have a Cohabitation Agreement drawn up. If you would like us to help you with this please get in touch. You may find these blogs helpful

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