Posted by Dominika Windak on 21st August 2018
Last updated 29th June 2023
Myth buster: Common law marriage

Resolution recently tweeted: #Cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type, with 1 in 8 adults in England and Wales living together #unmarried. We’re raising awareness of the #CommonLawMarriage myth today #ABetterWay

This is an area close to our hearts at The Family Law Company, as we often help clients who didn’t realise that a ‘common law marriage’ has no standing in law.

Have you heard someone say that ‘under the common law we are married because we were living together for over three years’? Although this may be the case in New Zealand, it is not in the UK. It’s quite astonishing that around two-thirds of co-habiting couples are not aware of this either.

The number of co-habiting families in the UK increased by almost 30% in the last decade and this number is still on the rise. But how many of them are fully aware of their legal rights (or lack of) if the relationship breaks down?

Under the current law co-habiting couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples. This is especially relevant if their relationship ends, and applies to property ownership, pension sharing or financial spousal support.

The obvious difference is that marriage may only be ended by an Order of the Court, whereas co-habiting couples can separate without having to go to Court.

Those who have children together still have the legal responsibilities of a parent and will be expected, depending on their financial circumstances, to support the upbringing of the children. However, they will not be ordered to support their former partner financially. Nor will either of the couple have any rights to each other’s bank accounts, pension-sharing, or rights to other’s property, unlike a married couple.

As an unmarried partner of the legal tenant of your home, you will also have no right to remain to stay in the accommodation; whereas each married partner has the right to live in the matrimonial home. Likewise, if your partner passes away without a will, you will not automatically inherit the property, unless you own it as joint tenants.

It is always worth seeking the advice of a specialist. We offer a free half an hour appointment which could bring you a piece of mind to see how you can protect yourself and your assets if things do not go as planned with your partner. Likewise, if you already separated and own assets together, you may wish to find out what you could be entitled to not just for yourself, but also for your children.

If in doubt, please call and ask to speak to one of our Unmarried Couples team members.







Need some advice? Get in touch today

Dominika Windak is a Trainee Legal Executive at The Family Law Company. She works in the areas of Divorce, Finances, Domestic Abuse and Children including jurisdictional matters. A keen eye for detail, her business law background gives her clients the commercial advantage when it comes to financial disputes and cohabitation.

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