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.