Is there such a thing as a ‘Common Law Marriage’?
August 2019 | Peter Bushell
The number of cohabitating couples in the UK is rising, and the decision to move in together and start a family without the ‘big wedding day’ is increasingly common for millions of people across the UK. However, it is important to consider what your rights are as a cohabiting couple, and where you legally stand if you and your partner decide to separate.
Despite popular belief, the idea of a ‘common law marriage’ that is somehow entered into by a cohabiting couple does not exist. The length of time that a couple decides to live together does not give rise to any kind of common law marriage.
The situation can become even more difficult when children and property are involved. If a cohabiting couple do decide to separate, the situation could arise where the property that they live in could potentially be sold, leaving the child without secure accommodation. This can only add to the stress and anxiety of both parties at the time. When married couples decide to divorce there are laws in place that ensure that the welfare of any child is of first consideration, including the future residence of that child. However these laws only apply to married couples and so the position is not the same with regards to cohabitating couples. The courts do not have the wide powers that they possess in divorce cases.
The law regarding cohabitating couples and their legal rights is complex. This is why it is advisable that if you are thinking of moving in with your current partner you should think about entering into a cohabitation agreement. If you do find yourself in a situation where you are going through a separation and you do not have a cohabitation agreement, you should seek legal advice.
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