Resolution, the family law group which represents family practitioners and campaigns for a fairer justice system, and of which both our Director and Head of Family Angela Green and her colleague, Chartered Legal Executive Victoria Iliff are members, has recently produced a poll revealing that two thirds of cohabiting couples are unaware that ‘common law marriage’ does not exist.
The research shows that the number of cohabiting couples has more than doubled in the last decade, and is the fastest growing family type in the UK.
The present law allows parties to live together and even have children together, possibly for decades, and then walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner if the relationship breaks down.
Instead, unmarried couples must rely on two pieces of legislation in most cases:
- the Trusts of Land Act 1996, in order to assert an interest in property
- the Children Act 1989, to assert property claims to house a child until no more than age 22 and child maintenance.
There can also be assistance from other legislation, for example if a couple have been engaged but unmarried, and it is important that should your relationship end, you speak to your Family law specialist about your circumstances so that you can receive advice about all options that are available.
Unless the law is changed, if you are considering cohabiting, you need to consider what steps you can take to protect yourself. This can include entering into a formal agreement prior to commencing cohabitation to confirm what would happen to your assets, whether in joint names or sole names, should you separate.
You should also give serious thought to making a Will and taking out life insurance to protect one partner if the other should die.
If you are concerned about these issues, please contact the Family Law team, headed by Angela Green on 01756 799000 for more information.