Two thirds of cohabitants ‘don’t understand myth of common law marriage’

Cohabitation|November 27th 2017

Two thirds of people living together do not understand that there is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’, Resolution has claimed.

According to this popular myth, living together without marriage bestows legal rights equivalent to a marriage after a period of time. But this is not the case and cohabitants in fact have no automatic rights and very limited legal options should the relationship come to an end.

Cohabitation is now the fastest-growing family type in the UK according to recent statistics. No less than 3.3 million couples have no marriage certificate: more than twice the number in 1996.

Resolution commissioned market research firm Comres to conduct a national survey. They polled a representative sample of 2,000 adults. In addition to more than 60 per cent saying they believed the common law marriage myth, a decisive four in five said they thought the legal right cohabitants do have were less than clear and nearly 80 per cent agreed with the organisation that cohabitants should be given more protection under the law. Eighty-four per cent said they wanted the government to do more to inform cohabitants of their true legal status.

A now single mother called Yvonne described her devastation:

“I was shocked to find out, that after five kids together and being with my partner for more than a decade that I was entitled to nothing when the relationship broke down. I was no longer just dealing with a break up – but with the fallout of not being legally entitled to share in any of what I thought were our joint assets.”

The survey results were launched at the beginning of Cohabitation Awareness Week, which will feature a series of events designed to raise awareness of the legal risks associated with living together. Resolution has campaigned for the introduction of increased legal protections for cohabitants for a number of years.

Stowe Family Law Partner Graham Coy, a member of Resolution, said:

“For decades the law in England Wales, as opposed to the law in Scotland, has been in desperate need for reform. Not only is there a seriously worrying lack of awareness as to what happens when a couple who are not married break up but also what legal rights and protection they have are woefully inadequate.”

He continued

“To be blunt, the law is way behind changes in society generally. The research shows there is an urgent need for Parliament to act and if it did there would be widespread support.”

Resolution Chair Nigel Shepherd added:

“Today’s poll shows that many still believe in the myth that they will get financial rights through ‘common-law marriage’. This means millions of cohabiting couples are unaware that they don’t have automatic claims, for example on the property they live in, if they split up. This makes it less likely they’ll take steps to protect themselves.”

Resolution is an association of family lawyers committed to a “constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters.”

Photo by  Brett Davie via Flickr

Author: Stowe Family Law

Comments(5)

  1. D says:

    Old news unfortunately, now onto the royal wedding..

  2. Seriously says:

    Well of course Resolution would portray this from a report they commissioned, Resolution are just trying to drum up business for their members; particularly as legal aid has been constrained. They would love to have the opportunity to be able to make even more people suffer high financial litigation costs which otherwise unmarried choose to avoid . Ultimately it affects the children as there would be less people, mainly dads , prepared to be parents of any children knowing that mum can rip most off on a whim .

  3. Lady 90 says:

    This is so ludicrous. The state should not interfere in private life article 8 Echr. This act will do more harm than good. Individuals have the right to exercise choice, ie to get married or to live together. I am an educaterd woman who has found love late in life, late 40’s why should my partner have a right to what I have already acquired before meeting him. If I wanted him to share we would get married. That is what marriage is there for.
    This Act will do more harm than good, particularly for older women who find companionship late in life.
    A companion can move in, and maybe not financially contribute anything toward household costs but if the relationship breaks up, the companion is then entitled to someone’s hard earned estate!
    This is too foolhardy, with no consideration to 21st century relationships, whereby consenting adults make personal descions about their living arrangements.

  4. Andrew says:

    Not only that, Lady 90: people who choose marriage should be able to enter prenups which should be cast iron, except of course for the protection of children during minority. Our present law infantilises everyone and especially women by assuming that they do not know their own minds and cannot look after themselves.

    • Lady90 says:

      I fully concur Andrew.
      My partner and I are mentally capatious and have verbally agreed and most importantly consented to this arrangement.
      My partner and I have no mental health problems, nor do we learning disabilities, nor do we have any form of brain injury. Thus meaning we are at liberty to choose how we live our lives, without state interference!

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