Is there such a thing as a common law marriage?

Saturday 18 August has been reported as the most common day in 2018 to tie the knot in the UK. However, since the early 1970s, the number of people actually getting married has steadily decreased, dropping a further 3.4% last year. There have been many theories about why marriage rates are falling, but regardless the fact remains that fewer people are formalising their relationship.

Resolution campaigns for reform of the law to improve legal protections for cohabitants and is calling on the Government to take steps to bring forward, as a minimum, basic protections for cohabiting couples. In the interim the government must also raise public awareness of the lack of protections and challenge the common law marriage myth. Only when armed with this knowledge can couples take steps to protect their families.

Emma Hopkins Jones, an Associate Solicitor in the Family Team, and who  is a member of the Resolution Cohabitation Committee. Emma says “If an unmarried couple breaks up, they would not necessarily be entitled to share in (what they thought were their) joint assets, such as a house they may have made significant financial contributions to, if they aren’t named as an owner on the deed. This is the same regardless of how long they have been together or whether they have children.

“The Government needs to update our legislation and to bring our laws in line with modern family types. In the absence of action from Government, these couples need to know that they are not given rights through common law marriage, so they can take appropriate actions to protect themselves. For example signing a cohabitation agreement is an easy and cost effective way to get financial peace of mind without getting married or forming a civil partnership.

“We are lagging behind our neighbours in Scotland and Ireland who have introduced legal remedies for couples living together since we entered the new millennium. In fact, over half of EU countries have adopted laws on cohabitation as have Australia and Canada.

“You can help raise awareness and put pressure on the Government by joining Resolution’s campaign, by sharing this information and writing to your MP.”


Posted on: 18/08/2018

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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