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IMyths of Common Law Wife's.....Debunking those Myths...Living 'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

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What right's does my live in partner have? 


Debunking the myths and misconceptions

around Living Together and Common Law Rights 


Common Law Marriage Myths

Couples who live together have increased by 25.8% over the last ten years*, as more and more couples decide not to walk down the aisle.

Do unmarried couples have rights in the UK? 

Currently there is no such thing as common law marriage in UK law*, so this means that couples who live together do not have the same legal protections  as married couples.  The legal position for unmarried couples is widely misunderstood and full of myths.  Cohabitees have very limited legal rights and responsibilities towards each other after separation.

Let's debunk some Myths:

Five living together myths and misunderstandings:


1) The “Common law husband and wife”

The ‘common law husband or wife’ does not exist.  Couples who are unmarried and live together do not acquire the same or even similar rights as a married couple, regardless of the length of a relationship.  

Unmarried couples do not have the right to apply for shared income and assets and have limited property claims.






2) Pensions

A Cohabitee has no right to a partner’s pension on separation.   Each cohabitee retains their entire fund when a couple splits, regardless of the pension value, or if the other person has a pension themselves and the length of their relationship.






3) Property

A cohabitee has no automatic right to make a claim against the property of an ex-partner or request a greater share of a jointly owned property.   If legal ownership does not reflect the reality of one cohabitee, the court will need to consider what the shared intentions of the parties are.

Without any clear statement of intention, the court has the complex and often time-consuming task of considering conduct regarding the property to establish intention. 


4) Income

A cohabitee cannot apply for financial assistance from their ex-partner. The issue of money in general is very distinct.   If you are living together and both cohabitees have separate bank accounts, neither has access to money held in each other’s account. If as a couple you have a joint account, both have access to the account, regardless of who pays into it. 

5) Inheritance

Former cohabitees do not have the automatic right to inherit from a partner’s estate on their death, even when they have children, unless the couple owned property jointly.   As an unmarried couple, making a will is important if you want your partner to inherit your estate.

Please do bear in mind that if you inherit assets as a cohabitee, you will be subject to paying inheritance tax, unlike married couples.






An example of a couple living together


Dorothy 45 and Adrian, 44 have been living together for 15 years in Leeds after falling in love while both working in the bar industry. Dorothy said:


“Andy and I have been in a relationship for 20 years, after meeting while making cocktails behind the bar. We dated for three years, before deciding to move in together and rented an apartment. During this time, we saved and saved with the aim of amassing a substantial deposit to put down on a home.


“We’re a practical couple and chose to make the leap and buy a house together, rather than paying thousands on a wedding. We wanted a place to call home, for life, rather than an expensive one-off celebration. We feel we’re both already committed, as we’ve been together 20 years, so don’t need to be married.


“We’re realistic and recognise our house is our core asset and something that will hopefully go up in value. As we’re both in our mid 40s we’re at an age where we thought it was sensible to start looking at our wills and the practicalities of leaving a legacy for our family and friends.


 “Being honest, we’re not really aware of legal rights as a cohabitating couple verses being a married couple, and I imagine most cohabitees are in the same position. I would label myself as a ‘common-law wife’ and think I have a ‘common law husband’ but I don’t know what rights are really attached to this ‘status’.

So How could a Cohabitee Protect Themselves:

  • Before buying property together, decide how you wish to own your home, for example work out what percentage you would own and explicitly detail this in a declaration of trust.  If the property is being brought by just one cohabitee this needs to be recorded in an agreement 

  • Enter into a cohabitation agreement with your partner, this will legally record how you intend to share assets and provide financial support in the event of a relationship breakdown

  • Make a will which sets out how each cohabitee will provide for each other 

  • Organise life insurance as a safety net to provide for your partner or family if the worst happens


Resolution’s awareness raising

Resolution, the national membership body representing family justice professionals, has been working for a number of years to both raise awareness of the lack of legal protection for cohabiting couples, and to persuade policymakers of the need for reform.

Matt Bryant, Director of Communications at Resolution, said:

“Cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type in the country, and worryingly, many are living under the mistaken belief that the law offers them some form of protection should they separate.


   Resolution is keen to ensure that the ‘common-law spouse’ myth is put to bed".


*Cohabitation Right's Bill may or may not become law

*ONS - Families and households in the UK 2018  

*Resolution - Cohabitation

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