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The Truth About Common Law Marriage

Common law marriage is not recognised throughout England and Wales, leaving many couples without any legal protection upon a relationship breakdown, or death. We're here to tell you how to get some peace on mind

The Truth about Common Law Marriage

Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching. For florists and chocolatiers this means overtime. For some of us it means a nice meal out with our partner. And for some of us it may be the time to make a big romantic gesture, perhaps by giving our partner a key to the house.

Living together is a major step within a relationship but from a legal point of view you are little more than room-mates, even if you’ve lived together for several years! An estimated 46% of people believe that after a set amount of time, or having children together, they form a “common law marriage” or that they are a common law spouse. Sadly, common law marriage is not recognised in England and Wales and couples do not get any special legal rights from living together.

If you are cohabiting with someone and the relationship ends for any reason there is no formal process to sort out finances, possessions, pets or even who is going to live where. This can lead to expensive legal battles, and is definitely very disruptive for all involved.

Marriage or a civil partnership is one way to resolve these issues… or you could have a Cohabitation Agreement drawn up. It may not sound like the most romantic present to give on Valentine’s Day, but it gives both of you security to know that if the relationship breaks down the next steps have already been set out.

Using a Cohabitation Agreement, you can agree on who takes on what aspects of the relationship, such as certain bills, any debts, or even who gets what car. The agreement can also be used to protect anything you might have brought into a relationship, such as an inheritance that you have used on the shared property. If you are interested in setting up an agreement then we can support you to draft a Cohabitation Agreement that meets your unique needs.

Common law marriage also doesn’t apply to passing gifts on after death – an unmarried partner won’t automatically get anything and may even have to start a complicated court application at a time when they would prefer to grieve. Wills aren’t the happiest subject to discuss at a fancy Valentine’s Day dinner, but if you’re living with someone you may want to make sure that everything is taken care of. While a Cohabitation Agreement can set out what would happen to things such as Death-in-Service benefits, they do little to affect what happens to the money and possessions of someone that has passed. If you are considering a cohabitation agreement, you may also want to think about creating a Will to go alongside it. We offer several fixed fee packages for Wills, all designed to make sure that the Will created will let you pass on what you want to who you want it to go to

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