Cohabiting Couples & The Myth of the Common Law Spouse

In his latest blog, Family Law Solicitor, Adrian Rose disscusses ‘Cohabiting Couples & The Myth of the Common Law Spouse’ and how this may effect you…

Information from the 2021 Census is being considered and released, and it shows that cohabiting couples continue to be the fastest-growing family type in the UK. But unlike divorce, when you separate from someone you have ‘just’ lived with; there is no particular set of rules that apply. This and the Census findings have renewed calls for reform of the Law to provide protection for cohabitees and their children.

Living with someone for a period of time does not mean that you are entitled to financial support from them, nor to a share of their property or other assets after you split up.

Whilst this does not mean that the law won’t help you if you find yourself in these unfortunate circumstances, the remedies that are available are often complicated and expensive to pursue. These remedies are often not ‘joined up’ and therefore obtaining an overall solution may be impossible.

What Can Cohabiting Couples Expect

For example, any claims in respect of property may be restricted and limited to proven financial contributions to the property, unless some agreement to a share in the entire property can be shown.

Claims in respect of belongings and other assets may come down to who has paid for them; claims on behalf of children are limited; and claims for maintenance between partners are all but impossible. Similarly, there may be no entitlement at all if your partner dies and makes no provision for you in their Will.

If you find yourself in this position, then legal advice at the earliest opportunity is always a good idea so that properly informed decisions can be made about matters that affect your future.

Planning For The Future

If you are considering living with someone, do think about recording what your intentions and obligations would be in the event of separation. Think about how you would want your combined assets and resources divided to reflect how you would wish it to be done and to avoid future difficulties and conflict.

This can easily be done by having a cohabitation agreement (much like a pre-nuptial agreement for those who intend to marry). Do also think about making or revising a Will to ensure your wishes on death are respected too.


Adrian Rose

March 2023

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