The myth of the common law marriage

The myth of the common law marriage

With a continuing trend towards couples living together without getting married, often a wrong assumption is made that if a couple separate, certain rights automatically arise, such as over property. In short, an unmarried couple who live together do not have the same rights as they might do if they were married.

If a couple own property together, then they will each have rights in respect of that property.  There may be an argument as to whether the house should be divided equally or in other shares.  If the property is in one of the couple’s sole name, the other may have no rights at all even if they have been paying towards the household.  It might be possible to claim that the non owning party has acquired some rights over the property if they can prove that they have contributed and that the property was intended to be held jointly either by things that were said or done or promised or inferred.

It gets more complicated if the couple have children as it is possible to bring a claim on behalf of the children.  The claim might be for child maintenance, but also possibly for money to help meet children’s costs.  In some cases, a home can be provided to the parent with the care of the children, which will probably be returned to the other parent when the children are grown up.

Spouses have the right to ask for pension sharing orders as well as other arrangements with pensions.  An unmarried couple have no rights to ask for a share of a pension.

If you are thinking of living with someone, you should take advice to find out what rights you do or don’t have.  If you are already living with someone, it is not too late to find out where you stand and whether there are things you might want to do to protect your position.  If you are already separated, it may be a legal minefield but sensible legal advice can help you resolve issues amicably with your ex.

To find out more, contact the family team at Leeds Day on 0844 5672222 or send us an email at family@leedsday.co.uk .


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