If I had a pound for every time I have heard a co-habiting couple express their surprise that their relationship was not legally recognised I would probably be very rich! There are now 3.3 million couples who live together in the UK without being married. Nothing wrong with that but what can be very wrong is that they think they have the same rights as couples who are married. Put simply, they do not. That is the myth of unmarried couples.
Let me break this down and make it very clear – hear me once and take it in.
If you are not legally married to your partner, regardless of how long you have been living together, you are not treated the same as a married couple. Leaving yourself without a civil marriage registration can be very dangerous if you have not protected your legal rights.
There is also the myth that surrounds the use of the word “common law spouse”. As a lawyer, I dislike that word immensely. Why? Because it gives the impression that if couples live together for long enough, or have children together, they acquire legal rights in the same way married couples do. This is not true. In only very limited circumstances can a court deal with finances or property should an unmarried couple separate, and that excludes provision of income.
If the couple have children then even if they are unmarried, each parent still has financial obligations to their children. That is where it ends though. They do not have any financial obligations to their partner. Should they split up the partner may be left without a home, an income and no access to savings. Could this happen to you?
Whilst in a relationship, no couple ever wants to think about what would happen if they were to split up. However, to protect both your interests, we would strongly advise you to seek legal advice. There are various steps you can take to protect yourself if your relationship ends or if one of you dies. You could draw up a Co-habitation Agreement or a Declaration of Trust. You should consider having a Will drafted too.
We have a Family Law Team that can help guide you. Give us a call today for a no-obligation confidential discussion.