Should Cohabitation and Legal Rights Go Hand In Hand?

Should Cohabitation and Legal Rights Go Hand In Hand? | Middletons Solicitors

The myth of common law marriage has been around for so long and many people still believe that if you live with someone for a period of time that you obtain similar rights to those of a married couple.
Even though this is absolutely untrue, a recent YouGov survey demonstrates that there is a real lack of knowledge and understanding around the legal rights of a cohabiting couple.
Nearly half of the people surveyed (2,000) thought that a cohabiting couple had the same rights as a married one and well over a quarter thought they were given some of those rights. Additionally, the survey has identified that more woman than men had these wrong ideas in place about cohabitation.

What many people fail to realise is that a cohabiting couple has no legal rights, even when they have lived together for 40 years. If one of them died after buying a home together and left no Will, the other person would have no legal entitlement to any of their estate under the laws of intestacy.

In addition, the disparity does not just occur when there is a death. If a cohabiting couple splits up and they have children, there is often a poor one-off financial settlement made that does have a negative impact on the children of these families. In fact, many unmarried parents are completely unaware that they can make a request for financial support through the Children Act on top of the child maintenance they are paid. This is demonstrated by the fact that only 407 awards have been made in the last 4 years.

Politicians are picking up the issues of cohabitation rights, with a Bill being raised in the House of Lords on this very issue. There is wide spread support for the Bill, but some argue that if a couple wants the same rights as a married couple, they should just get married and there is no need to amend the law.

It does remain unclear how these rights would be implemented and how long you would need to cohabit before these rights came into force, but no doubt this is a story that will continue to divide opinion.
For more information about this article or any aspect of our family law services, please call Charles Goodbody in our Warminster office on 01985 214444 or  email cgoodbody@mulaw.co.uk and we will be delighted to help you (there is no charge for initial telephone discussions).